Race News

Ruben Plaza wins Tour stage in Gap


Ruben Plaza wins Tour stage in Gap

For a long time the 102nd Tour de France has not been a story of success for TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA. After Rui Costa had been forced to abandon the team was out of contention for the overall standings. But then Ruben Plaza turned things around, winning the 16th stage with a courageous attack on the flanks of the Col de Manse.

In order to be a factor in the overall standings of the Tour de France you first have to make it through the first week of the race. Unfortunately Rui Costa as TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA’s captain was involved in a brutal high-speed crash in the third stage. The first rest day was not enough for him to fully recover from the consequences - the Portuguese had suffered injuries mainly to the hip and knee. As a consequence the team lost its leader in the second of three Pyrenees stages when Rui Costa heavy-heartedly stepped off his bike and abandoned the Tour de France. For TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA this meant that it had to refocus and set some new goals. As a consequence the riders in blue, fuchsia and MERIDA green were seen in attacking moves repeatedly.

Ruben Plaza had already made it into a larger escape group on stage 14, but the Spaniard could not match the pace of the fastest climbers on the steep final ramp to Mende. Crossing the finish line in 7th he still scored the best result for his team thus far. One day later the Spaniard made it into another escape group, this time even accompanied by Kristijan Durasek. But this group got no free ride and instead a second, smalller group formed. As the teams of the true sprint specialists wanted to profit from what they saw as their last chance in Valence, this group was reeled in as well. Thus the 15th stage indeed ended in a bunch sprint, and Davide Cimolai finished in 9th - already his fourth top10 finish at this year’s Tour de France.

But the real highlight was to follow in stage 16: A large group had formed during the first hour of intense racing, but it had to fight hard for another hour to get a free ride from the peloton. TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA was well-represented in the 29-man break, at first even with three riders. But Filippo Pozzato was among those riders who were dropped along the way. Still the team had two strong riders in the group of the day with Nelson Oliveira and Ruben Plaza. On the approach to the Col de Manse climb two lesser climbers tried to get a head start, but their attempt was neutralized. On the lower ramps of the Cat2 climb Ruben Plaza was riding in the first positions of the group, and with 18.5 kilometers to go to the finish line the Spaniard attacked courageously. He built a lead of a minute on is way to the summit and mastered the treacherous descent to Gap aboard his REACTO EVO from there. Thus he got to celebrate a solo stage win in Gap, and he gave TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA a very valuable present with a stage win at the Tour de France.

Tour de France, 16th stage: Bourg-de-Péage - Gap, 201km
1. Rubén Plaza, ESP/TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA, in 4:30.10 hours

2. Peter Sagan, SVK, + 0.30
3. Jarlinson Pantano, COL, + 0.36