Post Stage Analysis
Lars Boom Wins Solo in Córdoba
9 Big Photos from Stage 15 — sirotti
Lars Boom of Rabobank celebrated his first ever grand tour victory today in Córdoba. The 23 year old Dutch rider has turned to road racing full-time after achieving extensive results as an U23 in cyclocross and road racing. A product of the Rabobank development team, Boom rode away from the breakaway on the final climb of the day and stayed away solo for just over 20 kilometers. David Herrero of Xacobeo-Galicia put up a determined chase, but could not catch the flying Boom. Dominik Roels of Team Milram finished third, while Leonardo Duque won the sprint for fourth from the chase group. The main field rolled in the finish a leisurely 22 minutes later. Alejandro Valverde still leads the general classification ahead of Robert Gesink by 31 seconds and Samuel Sánchez by 1:10.
Constant attacking enlivened the first 75 kilometers of the stage. Everyone knew that a break would likely survive to the finish after the hard days in the mountains. Certainly the general classification teams were not much interested in chasing and with a climb close to the finish in Córdoba, the sprinters didn't have much chance today. Finally at kilometer 75, a breakaway containing 13 riders escaped and after 5 kilometers of hard riding, they had broken the magic minute barrier. The break included Lars Boom of Rabobank, David Herrero and Serafín Martínez Acevedo of Xacobeo-Galicia, Leonardo Duque of Cofidis, Maxim Iglinsky of Astana, Alexandr Kolobnev of Saxo Bank, Martin Velits and Dominik Roels of Team Milram, Matthieu Ladagnous of Français des Jeux, Vincente Reynes of Columbia-HTC, Oliver Kaisen of Silence-Lotto, and Christian Meier of Garmin-Slipstream. Milram and Xacobeo-Galicia both managed to place two riders in the break, and held the advantage of numbers. The general classification teams, meanwhile, decided to take the rest of the day off, and the gap climbed steadily as the kilometers ticked over.
The stage finished today with a circuit around the city of Córdoba. The circuit included the 10 kilometer Alto de San Jerónimo, which the riders climbed twice. Though long, the San Jerónimo was not especially steep, and the summit came with around 10 kilometers to go to the finish. On their first trip up the San Jerónimo, the break continued to ride together. By now, they held an advantage of 18 minutes over the main field, who rolled along chatting and enjoying the passing scenery. Over the top of the Alto de San Jerónimo, the break remained together and swooped along the curvy descent.
With one lap to go on the finishing circuit, it was time for some bike racing. The first attack came from Vincente Reynes of Columbia-HTC. Dominik Roels of Milram proved quick to follow, then Lars Boom with Serafín Martínez Acevedo on his wheel. With 24 kilometers to race, the four had a small gap over the remains of the break, where Kolobnev tried to organize a chase effort. As they began the second trip up the Alto de San Jerónimo, Reynes fell off the back of the lead group of four, leaving Boom, Martínez, and Roels out in front. Sensing the weakness of his companions, Boom soon attacked. Martínez followed the Dutch rider, while Roels tried desperately to get across. Another dig from Boom sent Martínez out the back, and with 22 kilometers to race, Boom rode alone out in front.
Riding steadily up the San Jerónimo, Boom built up his advantage over the chase. Martínez rode just 35 seconds behind Boom with his Xacobeo-Galicia team-mate David Herrero for company. Martínez soon ran short of legs, and Herrero continued on alone. Now Boom led, followed by Herrero, then Martínez, while Dominik Roels still rode alone behind them. A chase group of five riders, meanwhile, had formed from the remains of the break. The chase included Leonardo Duque of Cofidis, Maxim Iglinsky of Astana, Alexandr Kolobnev of Saxo Bank, Martin Velits of Team Milram, and Alexander Efimkin of AG2R-La Mondiale. Lack of cooperation slowed the chase effort, and they never made much progress against Boom. Over the top of the San Jerónimo, Boom rode 50 seconds ahead of Herrero and 1:46 ahead of the chase group. With just over 10 kilometers to go, the young Dutch rider was looking good for the stage win.
Indeed, Boom continued to add to his advantage on the descent to the finish. Herrero helped by misjudging a corner and going off the road. The Xacobeo-Galicia rider kept it upright and continued to the finish. At the line, Boom had plenty of time to celebrate his first ever grand tour stage victory. Boom joins Jean-Paul van Poppel and Bart Voskamp as the third Dutch rider to win in Córdoba. David Herrero finished second, while Dominik Roels held on to finish third. Leonardo Duque, meanwhile, took the sprint for fourth ahead of Maxim Iglinsky. Twenty-five minutes later, André Greipel won the bunch sprint for fourteenth place. All of the general classification riders rolled in together, and the overall standings remain unchanged.
Tomorrow, the sprinters will likely have their day. The stage runs between Córdoba and Puertollano and passes over two categorized climbs. Neither climb is especially difficult and the stage should suit the sprinters, assuming their teams are willing to do the work of chasing. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.
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Stage 15 Jaén - Córdoba
Terrain Type: Rolling, with a hilly finishing circuit.
After the three hard days in the mountains, this stage between Jaén and Córdoba offers something of a relief. It covers rolling terrain and heads west from Jaén, loops north of Cordóba, and finishes with a circuit around the city. Just under 30 kilometers in length, the circuit climbs the Alto de San Jerónimo twice before the finish. The final 8 kilometers descend to the finish in Córdoba. Tired from the hard mountain stages, the general classification teams will be inclined to let a breakaway go up the road. Though the sprinters could put in a big chase, the category 2 climb just before the finish will make it difficult for a sprinter to win here. It’s a day for the breakaways, then, though the general classification favorites will need to ride at the front on the final circuits in Córdoba.
Jaén stands not far from the Alto de Sierra de la Pandera, the finishing climb for the previous stage. The name of the city derives from the Arabic for “crossroads of caravans.” Situated in the Santa Catalina mountains, Jaén is filled with narrow, steep streets and alleyways and the Castillo de Santa Catalina sits on high above the city. Olive groves surround the town and Jaén is a leading producer of olive oil. Córdoba lies to the west of Jaén and sits on the Guadalquivir river. During the 10th century, the city served as the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba and may have been the most populous city in Western Europe. Extensive buildings remain from the Roman and Islamic eras, and the city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Both Jaén and Córdoba are frequent hosts of the Vuelta a España. Jaén has hosted the Spanish grand tour on 9 occasions, because of its proximity to the high mountains. Córdoba, meanwhile, has hosted 17 previous stages. The most recent visit to Córdoba came in 2008, and Tom Boonen celebrated the stage victory.
The riders will be happy to see this profile, which starts out descending. The stage departs Jaén, and rolls along uneven ground for around 10 kilometers. Then begins a long descent that covers the first 73 kilometers of the stage. The stage passes through Torredonjimeno and there is a small speed-bump of a climb at Procuna around kilometer 38.5. The road levels out as the stage passes though Bujalance, then it descends again to El Carpio. The course is now just north of Córdoba, and at Villafranca de Córdoba, the road turns southward toward Córdoba.
After about 20 kilometers of flat racing, the Vuelta enters Córdoba at kilometer 103.5. Here, there is an intermediate sprint, and the riders begin their first lap on the long finishing circuit. Seven flat kilometers follow the first intermediate sprint. Then comes the first categorized climb of the day, the Alto de San Jerónimo, which the riders will climb twice before the finish.
The Alto de San Jerónimo carries a category 2 rating and peaks out at 565 meters. The climb lasts 14 kilometers, though that total is a bit misleading. After 9 kilometers of steady climbing, the road plateaus, and the official KOM line comes after about 5 kilometers of up and down terrain. The road walls up just before the KOM line. The total elevation gain is 425 meters on the San Jerónimo, and it should make for a challenging finishing circuit. Following the KOM line, the climb continues a short while longer. Then, it’s 10 kilometers of descending to the finish and another trip around the circuit.
There is a second intermediate sprint at kilometer 136.1 as the riders pass through the finish for the bell lap. There remains just under 30 kilometers to race as the course passes over the intermediate sprint line. Seven kilometers of flat racing follow the sprint, before the second ascent of the Alto de San Jerónimo. From the KOM line, there remains 11 kilometers to race. After a short plateau, it’s all downhill to the finish. The second lap up the Alto de San Jerónimo could bring a race-winning move, as the distance to the finish is not especially great. A general classification rider could also try his luck here, though the major teams of Caisse d’Epargne and Liquigas-Doimo will be quick to chase down any dangerous attacks. It should be a small group or solo winner at the finish in Córdoba.
Who to Watch
The general classification teams will not be especially motivated to chase during this stage after three hard days in the mountains. The finishing circuit is likely too difficult for most of the sprinters, and this stage looks perfect for a breakaway to survive to the finish. The hilly terrain of the finale is made for a classics rider like Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto, but he will need a little luck to be in position to make a play for the win. French rider Pierrick Fédrigo of BBox Bouygues Télécom also tends to thrive in these conditions and is well-experienced with winning from a long break. Garmin-Slipstream, Xacobeo-Galicia, Andalucia-Cajasur, and Vacansoleil have been quick to join the breakaways this Vuelta and we will certainly see riders from those teams in the early breaaway. A stage like this one is always difficult to call, of course, but certainly, the hilly finishing circuit should make for a hard-fought finale.— Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->