The first big summit finish of this year’s Vuelta a Espana turned out to be an exciting race and a terrific day for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. After a big battle to find the break of the day, Omar Fraile, our Basque climber was able to infiltrate the 16 rider lead group that went clear after 70km's of racing.
Movistar and Etixx-Quickstep kept close tabs on the breakaway, but the gap was still able to reach the 5’30” mark. While the 12.2km Lavos da Covadonga was the big finishing climb of the day, riders would also have to deal with the 6km category 1 Alto de Fito at 42km to go. When the big lead group began the first climb, the peloton was just 3’20” back but Fraile had one immediate target, and that was to take maximum King of the Mountain points at the summit.
Fraile attacked the group just inside of a kilometre from the top and Luis Angel Mate followed our Basque climber. A 2nd effort just before the line saw Fraile secure the 10 points on offer at the top. Fraile and Mate began the descent together as the chasers started to pull back the 25” gap the leading duo had opened up at the top of the climb. It was only in the valley between the two big climbs where Fraile and Mate were brought back into the fold.
Once the break was all back together though, the cohesion ended as a number of riders started to skip turns. This resulted in the peloton bringing the gap down to just 2’30” by the time Fraile and co. reached the foot of the Covadonga. A few early accelerations from the break saw Fraile dropped and it was thought, this was the end of his day. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Gesink were the two riders who then led the way up the climb from the break but the peloton, being led by Movistar, was closing in fast.
With 6km to go the attacks from the favourites group came as Quintana and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) surged ahead of the rest. Their acceleration brought them up to the wheel of Fraile who then latched on to the wheels of the two favourites as Gesink now led the race alone, 45” up the road. Incredibly, Fraile was able to hold the wheel of Quintana and Contador as they went on to catch and pass the majority of the breakaway that had left Fraile behind at the start of the climb.
Quintana then attacked Contador and Fraile with 3km to go and this was just as Froome came back into contention from behind. There was no catching Quintana though, he went past Gesink who was snapped up by Froome & Fraile in the final kilometres as well. Fraile crossed the line in 4th place, a great result in its own right but his efforts today also saw him take the lead in King of the Mountains competition.