Thursday September 3
Escaldes-Engordany. Andorra / Lleida - 173km
1st – Danny van Poppel, Trek Factory Racing
2nd – Daryl Impey, Orica-GreenEDGE
3rd – Tosh van der Sande, Lotto Soudal
General Classification – Fabio Aru, Astana Pro Team
Points Classification - Esteban Chaves, Orica-GreenEDGE
Best Climber – Omar Fraile, Caja Rural Seguros RGA
Combined Jersey - Tom Dumoulin, Giant - Alpecin
Most Combative Rider - Maxime Bouet, Ettix - Quick Step
Team Competition - Team Sky
Following the brutal stage 11, stage 12 was always going to be a much more subdued affair. The stage played out perfectly for the GC contenders, finishing with a bunch sprint and no major incidents. Chris Froome of Team Sky was the only causality, X-rays overnight confirming a broken foot and his exit from the Vuelta.
A breakaway group of five established themselves early on, and would stay away until the final heartbreaking kilometre when they were swept up. Maxime Bouet of Ettix - Quick Step, Miguel Ángel Rubiano of Team Colombia, Jaco Venter of MTN - Qhubeka p/b Samsung, Bert Jan Lindeman of LottoNL-Jumbo and Alexis Gougeard AGg2r-La Mondiale extended their advantage to almost six minutes, 60km into the stage.
From there it was a game of mathematics that the peloton almost got wrong. Giant - Alpecin and Trek Factory Racing were doing all the work at the front of the main group, and the advantage to the breakaway was three minutes with 50km to go; two minutes with 20km to go, and one minute with 10km to go.
Eventual winner Danny van Poppel of Trek Factory Racing suffered a puncture with 11km left in the race, which caused some chaos, as his team were forced to stop the chase and help van Poppel return to contest the sprint.
The breakaway group were finally caught within the final kilometre and a messy sprint played out. The uphill finish caused the front of the race to scatter all over the road and with 250m to go it looked like Daryl Impey from Orica-GreenEDGE was going to be too strong, but the youthful legs of van Poppel jumped at the perfect time, quickly distancing the other sprinters and flying past Impey for the win.
It was the first Vuelta victory for the 22 year old Dutchman, following in the footsteps of his father who has nine Vuelta stage victories to his name.
Van Poppel said after the stage, “This was my first chance in this Vuelta. I missed the opportunities in the first week because I was not feeling good and struggled with the heat, and I was a little bit angry that I missed those chances. I knew that today was another chance, and I needed to take responsibility, and we as a team did it – it was a great job together. I felt really strong and then I know it’s hard to beat me on a little bit of an uphill. Especially also the guys - when I see the team pulling for me all day that really motivates me; it was really special.”
Trek Factory Racing team director Dirk Demol was full of praise for his team following the hectic final 10km.
“It was really a team victory today. All seven guys were a part of this win. Markel, who is always super motivated, told me, ‘I can pull for two. I feel like I can pull all day’, and when the gap was still big earlier in the race Riccardo kept asking over and over again, ‘Tell me when I have to pull! Tell me when I have to pull!' Everybody wanted to pull!"
"What has kept us together and going strong no matter what is that we have good team spirit."
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Thanks Graham Watson for yet another great pic!