Lotto-Belisol's Adam Hansen pulled off a coup on Stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana, slipping clear of a ragged peloton in the final throws of the day to take an impressive solo victory.
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

The 180.5km stage from Salvaterra do Mino to Cargas do Morrazo was always going to be an interesting one, with a largely flat course punctuated by a pair of steep, but short category two climbs, leaving the outcome open to possibility.

Possibility that Hansen, a noted opportunist jumped on as a lumbering peloton idled toward the finish of the stage. Six kilometres from home he struck.

"In the beginning of the stage I did try a few times to get in the breakaway. Pim (Ligthart ) had also been very active and he made it," said Hansen.

"It was very good that we had a man in front. I kind of had a back-up plan in mind, to attack in the final. On the last climb of second category I took care of Maxime Monfort. I made sure he was in good position and stayed in the first group.

"I had told Greg Henderson earlier that this was a stage for me. After the climb there won't be many lead-out men left, so if I would attack it would be difficult to catch me.

"I had tried in one of the first stages as well, but then they caught me with 500 meters to go. When we had finished the descent Maxime and I were part of the first group and he said to me that I could have a go."

"I wanted to go a bit later actually then I did. There were attacks at the bottom of the short climb at 5.5 m from the finish and I followed directly. It was very steep at the bottom.

"At the top I rode for 500 meters with everyone in the wheel, I was swaying over the road then to look at everyone and see how they were feeling. I could see that everyone was on their limit and I knew it was time to go. I got a gap then."

Hansen, a Giro d'Italia stage winner in 2013, used all his Grand Tour acumen to time his move superbly, riding clear in a minor lull in the tempo to get a gap and hold it all the way to the line. It was a move of power and class; Hansen having to drill out the watts to keep the panicked peloton at bay, and not blow himself up in a fit over-zealousness.

But once he'd broken the elastic and disappeared into the windy backstreets of Cargas do Morrazo, out of sight, he was lost to the peloton, and simply legged out to the finish.

A moment to check himself, Hansen crossed the line five seconds ahead of the chase, with John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) leading home the main field to consolidate his lead in the points classification, in second.

Hansen's win was set up by the ripping pace of Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo on the final major ascent of the stage, the Alto Monte Faro, which though hardly decisive in stretching the peloton, did serve to detach a number of key team-mates from Degenkolb, and likewise Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) from the bunch.

The remaining group, paradoxically perhaps, was both too big, and too small. Too small, for any one team to have the numbers, or proper incentive to control the race into the finish, and too big in allowing too many riders to be passengers.

When Hansen struck, the passiveness in the bunch allowed him enough time to establish a winning gap, and the lack of manpower from the sprint teams still present served to make even a makeshift chase impossible.

In the overall standings, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) remains ahead of Chris Froome (sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), with two key days in the saddle between him, and a sixth Grand Tour victory.

Contador holds a 1min 19sec advantage but that could very easily be washed away on tomorrow's brutal finishing climb up the Puerto de Ancares.

Stage 19: 180.5km, Salvaterra do Mino to Cangas do Morrazo
1 Adam Hansen (AUS) Lotto-Belisol 4hr 21min 58sec
2 John Degenkolb (GER) Giant-Shimano 0:00:05
3 Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Lampre-Merida
4 Yannick Martinez (FRA) Europcar
5 Michael Matthews (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE
6 Geoffrey Soupe (FRA)
7 Paul Martens (GER) Belkin
8 Jasper Stuyven (BEL) Trek Factory Racing
9 Romain Hardy (FRA) Cofidis
10 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Cannondale

General Classification
1 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 76hr 00min 40sec
2 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:01:19
3 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 0:01:32
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha 0:02:29
5 Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana 0:03:15
6 Daniel Martin (IRL) Garmin-Sharp 0:06:52
7 Samuel Sanchez (ESP) BMC 0:06:59
8 Warren Barguil (FRA) Giant-Shimano 0:09:12
9 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Cannondale 0:09:45
10 Daniel Moreno (ESP) Katusha 0:12:49

SBS will broadcast eight live stages of the Vuelta a Espana, in addition to daily highlights. Stage 20 will be broadcast from 2245 AEST on SBS ONE and online streaming at the Cycling Central website.