Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) brought joy to French fans by winning the queen stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana as the Spanish national tour crossed the border into France.
Geniez crossed the line alone at the summit of the Col du Peyragudes – the fourth first category climb in the toughest stage of the 58th Vuelta.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) finished second, while Ireland’s Nicolas Roche returned to the fray after heavy losses on the previous stage, to finish third.
Geniez said his primary aim had been to support team leader, Thibaut Pinot, but found himself in his best form after struggling in early season races like Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country.
“To win the queen stage of the Vuelta is exceptional. I would like to win more often but we climbers do not have as many opportunities as the sprinters. I’ll [this] remember all my life,” he said.
The 25-year-old was one of a 26-strong escape group that attacked early in the stage. The group split as early as the second climb, the first category Puerto de la Bonaiigua, leaving just six riders out front.
Geniez and Caja Rural’s Andre Cardoso crossed the summit of the 1770 metre summit of the Col du Port de Bales, another Tour de France regular together, but Geniez attacked on the descent and roe the remaining 25km – a distance that included the ascents of the Col du Peyresourde and the Payregudes – alone.
His victory follows triumphs for team-mates Arnaud Demare at RideLondon and
Vincenzo Nibali remains in the red jersey of race leader after leading home the group of favourites. A tense battle among the GC contenders saw the Italian, and the Spanish duo of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) hold a watching brief while Geniez went up the road.
Roche, who began the day 4.06 down on Nibali after losing seven minutes on the final climb of the previous stage, which had been held in conditions sufficiently severe to force Ivan Basso (Cannondale) out of the race with hypothermia.
The Irishman’s efforts gained him a single place on GC (he is now sixth) and saw him reclain 17 seconds on Nibali, who continues to lead the race by 50 seconds from Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) and by 1.42 from thrid-placed Valverde.
Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage 15 – result
1) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – FDJ – 6.20.12
2) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Movistar +3.03
3) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff +3.07
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +3.20
5) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar – ST
6) Christopher Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard
7) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha
8) Domenico Pozzovivo (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Jose Herrada (ESP) – Movistar +3.23
10) David Arroyo (ESP) – Caja Rural – ST
1) Vincenzo Niabli (ITA) – Astana – 60.20.21
2) Christopher Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard +50″
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.42
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +2.57
5) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3.43
6) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff +3.49
7) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – +4.59
8) Leopold Konig (CZE) – NetApp-Endura +6.18
9) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +7.46
10) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana +9.11