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Vuelta: Nothing Can Separate Top Two on Gesink's Day

It was second time lucky for LottoNL's Robert Gesink after his second place on Monday's stage 10.


The Pyrenees couldn't have served up much more in attempting to separate Froome and Quintana. Even before the first of the climbs, Movistar were making moves to upset Sky, with Daniel Moreno, sitting in twelfth place, going on the attack with Ruben Fernadez and Jose Joaquin Rojas and thirty-eight other. This left Sky in a place they're used to being — the front, to prevent the large and dangerous break from getting too much of a lead. Movistar, who have controlled the race for the first fortnight, hoped their cards in the break would pay off, while Sky burned matches.

While Movistar do have a history of using dangerous team mates in the break to put Sky under pressure, a theme of the day was Sky not panicking. Golas and Puccio pushed the pace, and paid the price on the Marie-Blanque, but ultimately, they always had enough men, and enough talent even on a second-string line-up to prevent anything disastrous happening. Utilising similar tactics were Orica-BikeExchange, who used Simon Yates to make a good challenge at the stage win, with Jack Haig making a move so he could assist the Briton's attack on the Marie-Blanque, and Magnus Cort helping him after the climb was summited. Yates was the main beneficiary of the stage, with his ballsy move allowing him to get fifth place and move up to fourth in the General Classification.

Why did the move succeed? Not that it was poorly thought out or executed, but a lot of it is down to the way Quintana rode the final climb. In what can only be assumed to be an attempt to break Chris Froome's rhythm, he went from poisonous attacks to trackstands, with little in between. Yates, setting his own pace, was only twenty seconds slower. How did Quintana fare with his strategy? Well, that brings us back to Sky's ability to avoid panicking. Froome never quite stuck in Quintana's wheel when he made his moves, but winched his way back up without ever looking like being in big trouble on each of Quintana's half dozen attempts to go clear. Froome even sent Leopold Konig, his final superdomestique, up the road during a period when the group was going slowly — consequently, the Czech moved into the top five, due to the total and mysterious disappearance of Alejandro Valverde on the early slopes of the Col d'Aubisque. He lost ten minutes, and fell to nineteenth in GC. His podium spot was filled by Esteban Chaves, who also shot around the GC leaders while they were half-stationary.

Up front, the unwieldy break was waxing and waning depending on the terrain. Omar Fraile and Alex Geniez looked strong on the early Col Inharpu, taking the mountain points, but they would both disappear out of contention. A group of six formed before the final climb, and while it fractured, Gesink was coming from behind to catch up. He eventually proved the strongest. His attack was only followed by Kenny Elissonde, with Egor Silin sneaking to the front in the final kilometre as well. Gesink's move with three hundred and fifty metres to go, however, could be matched by no one, and he took the stage win with seconds to spare ahead of Elissonde.

Froome and Quintana's stop-start style sustained until the final metres, when Quintana's final attack still couldn't take any time out of Froome. Contador lost yet further time.

1. NEDGESINK Robert 46 LOTTO NL -JUMBO 05h 43' 24''
2. FRAELISSONDE KENNY 71 FDJ 05h 43' 31'' + 00' 07''
3. RUSSILIN Egor 118 TEAM KATUSHA 05h 43' 33'' + 00' 09''
4. NZLBENNETT George 43 LOTTO NL -JUMBO 05h 43' 55'' + 00' 31''
5. GBRYATES Simon 59 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 05h 44' 03'' + 00' 39''
6. ESPZUBELDIA Haimar 91 TREK - SEGAFREDO 05h 44' 13'' + 00' 49''
7. BELBAKELANTS Jan 103 AG2R LA MONDIALE 05h 44' 35'' + 01' 11''
8. USATALANSKY Andrew 141 CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM 05h 44' 38'' + 01' 14''
9. COLCHAVES Johan Esteban 51 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 05h 44' 38'' + 01' 14''
10. CZEKONIG Leopold 26 TEAM SKY 05h 44' 40'' + 01' 16''

1. COLQUINTANA Nairo 7 MOVISTAR TEAM 58h 41' 40''
2. GBRFROOME Christopher 21 TEAM SKY 58h 42' 34'' + 00' 54''
3. COLCHAVES Johan Esteban 51 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 58h 43' 41'' + 02' 01''
4. GBRYATES Simon 59 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 58h 43' 57'' + 02' 17''
5. CZEKONIG Leopold 26 TEAM SKY 58h 44' 18'' + 02' 38''
6. ESPCONTADOR Alberto 11 TINKOFF 58h 45' 08'' + 03' 28''
7. ESPSANCHEZ GONZALEZ Samuel 37 BMC RACING TEAM 58h 45' 39'' + 03' 59''
8. USATALANSKY Andrew 141 CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM 58h 46' 10'' + 04' 30''
9. ITASCARPONI Michele 61 ASTANA PRO TEAM 58h 47' 17'' + 05' 37''
10. ESPMORENO FERNANDEZ Daniel 6 MOVISTAR TEAM 58h 47' 32'' + 05' 52''