• Valerio Conti celebrates his first grand tour victory on the 13th stage of the 2016 Vuelta a Esapana (Getty)Source: Getty
Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) attacked the lead group 18 kilometres from the finish to take the biggest win of his career. With a punishing queen stage on the menu tomorrow, the peloton finished today's 213km stage a whopping 33 minutes and 54 seconds behind.
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Cycling Central

Source:
Cycling Central
3 Sep 2016 - 12:01 PM 

Without a contract for 2017, the Italian advertised his wares by tearing away from the lead group up a small dig, resisting the 10 remaining leaders for 18 kilometres.

The 23-year-old took his first Grand Tour victory finishing 55 seconds ahead of Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Sergey Lagutin (Katusha). Michael Gogl (Tinkoff) and Vegard Stake (IAM) rounded out the top five finishers. 

"I always believed I could win. Like all the other escapees I guess. We knew the stage win was going to be decided among us because we had a huge lead to the peloton," Conti said.

"The finish wasn't too difficult and in the last kilometres before attacking I felt really good. 

"I took advantage on the short climb to make the difference and then I just powered through to the finish line."

As it happened

As the bunch set tyres upon the rolling roads of the Basque country, the heat and reality set in. 

With four category 3 climbs coming in the latter half of the race, and the queen stage the next day comprising three category 1 climbs plus the hors categorie summit finish atop the Col d' Aubisque, the peloton happily allowed the 12 riders to escape after 24 kilometres.

Gogl, Wyss, Lagutin, Stake, Conti, along with Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant - Alpecin), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Etixx - Quick Step), Val Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18) and Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) jumped to a 16 minutes and 42 second lead by the Alto Monte Igueldo climb after 100 kilometres raced.  

Meanwhile the peloton reached the beach and seemed to stay there for the rest of the stage. 

By the final categorised Puerto de Lizaieta climb the leaders led by 19 minutes. But there was still 50kms to go. 20 kilometres later the leaders with 21 minutes in hand realised the winner would come from their group and the attacks started. First Rossetto and the Wallays five kilometres later. But only Conti's move stuck, the Italian using a small climb to his advantage.  

The gap to the peloton blew out by another 12 minutes in the final 18 kilometres. But the GC remained the same. 

Lagutin (Katusha) took all the maximum KOM points out on the road while in the break and now leads the spotty competition.

And the go-slow?

It's not the peloton's first Grand Tour go-slow this season. At the Tour de France this year, the peloton maintained an average pace of 37.2km per hour on the 223km transitional sprint stage 3. 

"If the stage was shorter, it'd be fast." Peter Sagan quipped at the time.

It is said new mutterings among the peloton favour longer transfers by transport with shorter stages on the bike when in the past, the opposite was true. 

Grand Tour organisers will soon need to address this situation with such stages sure to dampen ratings and general interest.

How to watch the final week of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana on SBS
With the top five poised within three minutes, we're in for some great racing at the Vuelta a Espana in the final week. SBS will bring you all the action from the final eight stages of 2016 La Vuelta a Espana online and on SBS.

Go-slow reactions ahead of the queen stage 

Nairo Quintana

"It might probably be the most important stage in this Vuelta tomorrow. Many difficult climbs, a steep finish - let's just hope we can be on par with our rivals and maybe take some more seconds. Let's keep watching how our rivals react to plan on a useful strategy."

Alejandro Valverde 

“The break wasn’t any dangerous for the GC, and there wasn’t any need to go fast. However, the day wasn’t easy either: more than six hours on the bike, 3,100m of elevation gain… and that, with a stage like Saturday’s ahead. It will be decisive for the GC result, one to keep full focus for the whole route and a day where we will try to increase our chances to win this.” 

Alberto Contador 

“It wasn't something we had planned today, it was just a question of fatigue. Our legs have gone through a lot of effort, every day, so, I think tomorrow will be a different story. It will be a very important day and if you think about it, that will be the first stage with true, long climbs at the Vuelta, with the exception of the finish to Lagos de Covadonga, the rest have been nearly all explosive finishes. Tomorrow, it will be very important to have a good form."

Neil Stephens, Orica-BikeExchange director 

It was an easy day today. Not just for us, but for all of the teams. It was an ideal stage for those teams that haven’t got a win to send riders up the road and once the right break formed they accelerated and off they went. With two very important stages coming up we probably weren’t the only ones thinking about tomorrow and today served as a nice transition stage in preparation for the Pyrenees.”


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