On Saturday, Kevin Geniets took the opportunity of a nice mountain stage on the Vuelta to spend his first day in the front on a Grand Tour. In a large breakaway, he even got the company of his teammate Arnaud Démare until the last thirty kilometres. In the final climb, the Luxembourg champion came against better climbers but still held on to secure a nice eighth place at the top, thus taking his first top-10 in a Grand Tour. After a good day, Arnaud Démare stayed away from the bunch as well to take 15th.
“Kevin had quite an adviser with Nono”, Franck Pineau
As the first act of a mountainous weekend, stage 14 of the Vuelta brought the riders to Pico Villuercas after 165 kilometers and nearly 3,500 meters of elevation gain this Saturday. However, most of the climbs being in the second part of the race, the fight for the breakaway was expected to be frantic. “We absolutely had to put someone in front today,” Franck Pineau said. “In the first kilometres, Arnaud, Ramon and Tobbe first had to follow the moves for the others to save their energy, because we thought the breakaway would go after quite a while”. It wasn’t the case this time around though, and the right group went away after just eight kilometres. “So Arnaud then managed to enter the 18 man-break with Kevin,” added Franck Pineau in a smile. “I’ve had a lot of trouble due to the heat in recent days,” said the Luxembourg champion. “It was not so hot today and I took advantage of it. I wanted to go in the break for a few days already, I was trying, but it was not working. It did today!“ In addition to his teammate, the young man found himself in the front with Clément Champoussin, Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën Team), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), Dani Navarro (Burgos -BH), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Andrey Zeits (Team BikeExchange) or even Romain Bardet (Team DSM).
It quickly became clear that the breakaway would fight for the win at the top of Pico Villuercas, as the peloton showed no interest in the stage victory. The gap went up beyond ten minutes as the breakaway approached the first climbs of the day at halfway point. “I was happy for Kevin, who is taking part in his first Grand Tour, to be in this breakaway that could make it to the end,” continued Franck. “He also had quite an advisor with Nono, who guided him well all day to give him confidence. Arnaud also rode well on the flat to make sure that the breakaway wouldn’t be caught”. Although the French sprinter was temporarily distanced in the Alto Collado de Ballesteros, he then returned to the breakaway and stayed there until the last 30 kilometres, when things really got serious up front. “It was great having Nono with me,” Kevin said. “He shared his experience with me, he recalled me to drink and eat. He also often brought me some ice to keep me as fresh as possible. In the end, when the attacks started, he also bridged some gaps. He was really a big help for me in front.” Before the final climb (14.4 km at 6.3%), Nicolas Prodhomme went solo at the head of the race and the Luxembourg champion started the ascent more than a minute later in a chasing group.
“I really enjoyed this day”, Kevin Geniets
In the first part of the climb, the young man from Luxembourg tried to follow the wheels as hard as he could, but he then made an attempt himself with seven kilometres remaining. Shortly after, the real battle began between the best climbers and the Groupama-FDJ’s rider was unable to match them. Romain Bardet in particular, who joined the top as a winner. Still, Kevin Geniets kept fighting and crossed the line less than two minutes later, in eighth place. “I was able to give 100%, and I did a decent climb,” he said. “I have no regrets whatsoever. I gave everything. I also notice that the legs are still very good, maybe better than in the first week. I really enjoyed this day and I will try to go for it again”. “Kevin did a good last climb, but it was obviously difficult against riders like Bardet,” continued Franck. “To be eighth alongside the guys who were in front is great. He didn’t make any mistakes and never cracked. Let’s not forget that it is his first Grand Tour. He discovers himself day after day. To do what he did on a mountain stage after 15 days is very good”. A few minutes after the Luxembourger, Arnaud Démare managed to take 15th place of the day ahead of the main Vuelta’s favourites, getting quite an unusual result.
“I was not the best climber in the breakaway, but I still enjoyed it,” Arnaud said in the evening. “It was a nice day up front, I had good legs, and I had no troubles for the time limits!” “He can mark this date on the calendar, because he won’t always be 15th in a mountain stage,” smiled Franck. “In that point of view, I might have been a bit surprised, but not at all regarding his spirit. We know he’s capable of such things. It was a good day anyway, we were part of the action”. On Sunday, the riders will face another mountain stage, featuring almost 4000 of elevation gain, ahead of the second rest day. “It will be a little harder,” concluded Franck. “There will be 200 kilometers and more climbs. For us, the goal is the same. We’ll take the start with the same spirit as today, with the goal of making the breakaway and getting the best of ourselves if we enter it”.