Sunday 13 September 2015 - 20:28

La Vuelta a España Stage 21: Maes Finishes 7th in Conclusive Group Sprint, Brambilla 13th Overall

La Vuelta a España Stage 21: Maes Finishes 7th in Conclusive Group Sprint, Brambilla 13th Overall

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Nikolas Maes wrapped up the 2015 edition of La Vuelta a España with a 7th place finish in the 98.8km 21st Stage on Sunday.

John Degenkolb (Giant - Alpecin), won the stage over Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) and Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing Team). 

Etixx - Quick-Step rider Gianluca Brambilla also finalized a 13th place overall finish, after three weeks of tremendous hard work to stay among the top GC riders of the peloton in the mountains. Fabio Aru (Astana) won La Vuelta by 57" over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), and 1'09" over Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Carlos Verona and Iljo Keisse were also active in the stage. Verona was part of a six rider breakaway, while Keisse tried a late race solo attack that was brought back inside 5km to go. 

A highlight of La Vuelta for Etixx - Quick-Step was three Combativity/Most Aggressive Rider awards (Verona Stage 10, Keisse Stage 5, Maxime Bouet Stage 12). The three times Etixx - Quick-Step riders earned red bib numbers represented a consistent presence in the breakaways throughout the grand tour, attacking whenever there was an opportunity, while also maintaining the GC position of Italian rider Brambilla.

"I'm very happy about this result at La Vuelta," Brambilla said. "At the end I am 13th, which matched my best placement at a grand tour, at the 2012 Giro d'Italia. Though, there are differences among the two races. This race was incredibly difficult. Every day was a challenge. There were a lot of meters of altitude to pass. So, it was a really hard parcours. Also, the quality of the competitors was super high. So, I am happy and proud to be in the top 15 of this race. For a few moments I also dreamt about a top 10 finish, but I think ultimately I finished where I was supposed to given my performance. I am satisfied with where I finished. I have great memories of this race, like the moment when I attacked and gained a few minutes, or all the time with my teammates. My most difficult moment was not on one of the most demanding parcours on paper. It was the stage of Avila. I was really empty in the legs and I lost contact on one of the climbs. At that point I thought that I would probably lose everything that day. But I kept on fighting. I tried to stayed focused and in the end I minimized the damage as best as possible. To me, this race will remain in my mind as one of the best of my career. As a team we were also really aggressive, whether entering breakaways or always trying our best in any situation, even if the parcours didn't fit our skills. After today a big part of my season is over, but I want to stay focused. With the condition I have I think I can do well in the next races. I will do my best to be ready for them. As an Italian, let me also congratulate Fabio Aru for his victory. As a small anecdote: At the beginning of La Vuelta I had a pair of red socks. After two or three days of being at the race, I gave those socks as a gift to Aru and told him to keep it, because he'll need them sooner or later at La Vuelta. I was right. I am happy that I gave him that gift."

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