Le Mével was part of a big escape that pulled clear early in the four-climb, 185km 20th stage from Bilbao to Vitoria. The profile suggested that a breakaway would stay clear to challenge for the stage victory, but the peloton reeled it in to set up a reduced bunch sprint.
“Every day I have been trying to win a stage. Today, I expect the break to make it to the finish line. I proved I am still fighting all the way to the last day,” said Le Mével. “I have no regrets, because this Vuelta is very peculiar. There have been not many breakaways that make it to the finish line. I crashed hard early in the Vuelta, so I said ‘au revoir’ to the classification. I tried to win a stage, but this is a crazy Vuelta.”
Italian Daniele Bennati won the stage and Juanjo Cobo defended his leader’s jersey with just one day left to race.
Vanmarcke was pleased to be able to challenge for the stage victory after suffering with aches and pains caused from his nasty crash last weekend when he fell into a ravine in stage 14.
“The past days I was really suffering with my back after my crash. Today, mentally was the last day, and I knew today was the last day to suffer. I went extremely deep on the last climb to make it to the top,” Vanmarcke said.
“The team told me to keep Dan (Martin) in front in case they want to try something with the wind. I did that, and then I could do my own thing in the finale. I wanted to try to attack, but the group was going very fast and there was a headwind, so it was better to wait for the sprint.
“In the sprint, I had to come from too far back. With 800 meters to go, I was still in 15th position and I had to go in the wind. I got on the Liquigas rider’s wheel, but he exploded when he went, so … fourth place.”
The 66th Vuelta concludes Sunday with a short, sprint-friendly stage in Madrid. Heinrich Haussler will be the team’s best bet for a strong finale while Daniel Martin will finish off a great Vuelta that includes a stage victory and 13th overall.
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