La Vuelta 2012 Stage 16: Epic Queen Stage Win for Cataldo – 50th Victory for OPQS in 2012
03-Sep-2012: Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team won its 50th race — in three disciplines — in 2012, with Dario Cataldo battling on gradients of more than 20% in the final kilometers to win the 183.5km Stage 16 of La Vuelta a Espana.
Cataldo and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked at the 55km mark, and built up almost 15 minutes of a gap on the peloton at one point in the stage. Cataldo and De Gendt held a 7’26” gap approaching the climb to the finish: HC Valgrande-Pajares Cuitunigru, a 6.9% average gradient climb, 19.4km in length. The climb featured ramps ranging between 16% and 25% in the final kilometers. The final climb was sure to be a test of a rider’s ability to suffer.
Cataldo upped the pace to drop De Gendt with 2km to go, and had as much as a 20″ gap on De Gendt going into the final .8km. However, De Gendt was battling his way back with 200m remaining, and Cataldo had to battle with everything he had to stay away as he was ascending a gradient of 23% to the finish line. The cadence of Cataldo slowed due to the brutal ramps, his hands were gripping the tops of his bars, and the pain was obvious on his face. Cataldo, despite the total body fatigue of his efforts, held on for the victory by seven seconds over De Gendt.
“It’s an unbelievable victory because this morning, I was not 100 percent due to my crash of yesterday,” Cataldo said. “But then I started, and after the first climb the feeling was better. At the end of the descent the group was going really fast, but I attacked with De Gendt. For the first 10 to 15km after our attack it was really a fight between us and the group. We had only 30″, so we were really making a time trial effort to try and stay away. At the end we won the fight with the peloton and they let us go.”
“During the breakaway we were not really sure about the result,” Cataldo continued. “We knew to win the stage we needed to have a good advantage at the foot of the last climb. But when Bramati told me that in the group, only eight or so riders were left, we said maybe it was possible the peloton will start controlling each other instead of us. At that point we shared the workload in the breakaway, and in the last 3km we started to force things a little bit. He attacked me, I attacked him. But in the end there was a section of the climb that was not so steep. I attacked and immediately got 20 meters, and it was really a battle between us because Thomas never gives up. The last kilometer was the longest of my life. In the last 100m I was ready to put my foot on the ground, but I continued because I had Bramati on the radio, and the public was so close cheering me and supporting me. I did everything to pass the finish, and when I did, I was so happy, but so tired that for the first moments of the stage victory it was impossible to celebrate.”
“I am really super happy,” Cataldo said of his victory. “I won the Queen stage. It was a long break with a great rider as De Gendt. I am improving day by day, and really looking forward to the next stages and — why not — to really try and do something good at the Tour of Lombardy, the last objective of my season. To be honest, I would also like to be a part of the Italian National Team in Valkenburg. It’s a dream, but I will work for it and hope my effort will be repaid.”
Sports Director Davide Bramati:
“Today is a great victory not only for Dario, but the entire team. We tried hard every day. The team has a good spirit here. We work together, there is a good atmosphere. I am sure now that Dario has broken the glass, maybe someone else can understand it is possible to go for a victory.”