LottoNL-Jumbo rider Robert Gesink finished fifth in a tough penultimate stage of the Vuelta. The stage was won by Pierre Latour (AG2R). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was never in danger and retained on to his red leader's jersey.
The 193-kilometre stage to the top of the Alto Aitana began with a long battle to breakaway. Gesink was present from the start and went with a large group behind the two leaders Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Louis Leon Sanchez (Astana). The peloton was distanced already. Molard was caught and when Atapuma (BMC) and LeTour attacked, Gesink could not follow, and eventually, Sanchez was caught too.
"We made good business today with Robert Gesink and George Bennett," said Sports Director Jan Boven. "It was a 70-kilometre long battle to get away. Robert was in all escapes. Because of the hard start, it was a fight of man against man in the end. When Atapuma and Latour attacked, Robert could not respond. He came in totally wasted because he gave it all today."
The stage had a lot of vertical metres and was held in hot conditions. George Bennett always rode in the group of favorites with Froome, Quintana and Contador, and saw a competitor to be eliminated.
"George fought his way in the top ten today," continued Boven. "Scarponi was dropped in the beginning but came back. In the final, he dropped off again and George climbed into the top ten of the rankings and that's great.”
Robert Gesink had victory in his pocket and rode today with nefarious plans. In the past, Gesink was already third on the hard Alto Aitana and that gave him inspiration.
"I knew the climb from a few years ago," Gesink said. "I spent the whole day pulling in the attack and helped to make a difference because at one point, the peloton was close behind us. In the final, I had to pass when Atapuma and Latour attacked. I fought until the last metres and I’m happy with my fifth place today."
Sunday following a train journey from Alicante to Madrid, the riders start for the closing evening stage.