The first mountain top stage at the Vuelta a Espana showed which GC favourites are up for the challenge over the coming weeks and who are not. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the stage a top the cat 1 climb to La Zubia, looking much stronger than his team mate Nairo Quintana. Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) could not be faulted as they both finished in the same time as Valverde, in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
It was a day of two tales for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung as Sergio Pardilla put in a solid ride to take 12th on a stage not necessarily suited to his capabilities. Nevertheless Pardilla would only finish 40″ down on Valverde and so our Spaniard shot up the GC rankings to 12th place overall. Merhawi Kudus did not have the best of days. The young Eritrean crashed hard on a descent, ripping up his hip, back and elbow quite badly. Kudus was able to fight on to the finish and is currently receiving treatment, details on his condition will be known tomorrow morning.
Coming into the final 5km climb the race was all together as Movistar set a blistering pace from top to toe of the climb. Slowly riders got dropped in 2′s and 3′s due to the high pace. With 2.5km’s to go there were only 25 riders left, this group included both Pardilla and our South African Champion, Louis Meintjes. In the closing kilometer, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) put in attack which split the front group apart. Rodriguez could not hold his effort as the top trio came over him.
Rider – Sergio Pardilla
It was a really hard and hot day. It was the first mountain stage and the team worked really hard for me. When it came to the final, the top guys were really fast. The climb was a short climb and an explosive climb which doesn’t suit me but at least i could still do a decent result. I will look for the stages where there is more climbing and longer climbs as well but for now i am happy.