Sunday September 6
Comillas / Sotres. Cabrales - 175.8km
1st – Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
2nd – Rafal Majka, Tinkoff - Saxo
3rd – Daniel Moreno, Team Katusha
General Classification – Fabio Aru, Astana Pro Team
Points Classification - Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
Best Climber – Omar Fraile, Caja Rural Seguros RGA
Combined Jersey - Tom Dumoulin, Giant - Alpecin
Most Combative Rider - Brayan Stiven Ramirez Chacon, Team Columbia
Team Competition - Team Sky
Stage 15 began at a furious pace, 49.4km covered in the first hour and the main breakaway of the day not establishing itself until the about the 40km mark. The nine-man breakaway was given no time at all, as an attentive peloton was keeping things close for the brutal final ascent up the Alto del Sotres.
Despite being just over 175km in length, the stage was all about this last climb, and as soon as the main field reached the bottom, the attacks began. The most notable was from a re-invigorated Nairo Quintana of Movistar, who attacked with 10km remaining. Pro Team Astana was quick to response and once they had neutralized Quintana's attack, they began setting a strong tempo at the front.
The final two kilometers of the climb would decide the stage and shake up the GC leader board. Holding a gradient of over 10% and spending large portions of time over 13% it was a matter of survival for the GC contenders. Tom Dumoulin of Giant - Alpecin was the first big name to go backwards, quickly dropping over a minute behind the leaders. Quintana was next, paying for his earlier attack and losing touch.
Joaquim Rodriguez of Team Katusha went to the front and began turning the screws.
The steep nature of the final climb meant that all the riders were on their limit just trying to keep moving forward and it was 'Purito' who had the power to create a gap. Rafal Majka of Tinkoff - Saxo and Fabio Aru of Pro Team Astana tried to go with him, but they didn't have it in their legs, and despite their best efforts the gap just wouldn't close.
Rodriguez crossed the line twelve seconds clear of Majka and picked up a handy little time bonus as well. Aru gave everything and it was just enough to hold on to the red jersey. At the end of the stage the gap between the two was just one second! Astonishing to think only one second separate first and second place after 15 stages, and almost 62 hours of racing.
Rodriguez was buoyant at the end of the day. He may well be looking at a possible Grand Tour victory if he can maintain his stellar form.
"This is incredible. What a hard climb but what a nice win, too. The cheering fans helped me a lot as well as my teammates. This is a phenomenal Vuelta. The whole Vuelta we were looking for this stage win. Now we have it and we even play a role for the GC. For the moment the situation is perfect for me. I miss one second for the race lead but that is not so important. In the end the strongest rider will win the Vuelta."
"The good feelings that I have now are more important than that red leader’s jersey. Tomorrow we have again a hard stage with possibilities. I will try again but if it doesn’t work I will try another day. I don’t want to use a calculator to find out how much time I need to take before the time trial in Burgos. In the past I calculated too much and it ended badly. I just look ahead from day to day. We came to this race to arrive on the final podium. We are on our way. Tonight we will shortly celebrate and tomorrow we will suffer again."
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Thanks Graham Watson for yet another great pic!