Vuelta a España: De Plus rides onto the podium in Caminito del Rey
Quick-Step Floors' young Belgian came close to his maiden pro victory on the race's first uphill finish.
Laurens De Plus can look with confidence to what lies ahead at the Vuelta a España, where he is making just his second Grand Tour appearance, after what's been a promising opening weekend for the soon-to-be 23-year-old, who after riding a solid time trial on the streets of Malaga, showed guts and motivation at the end of a scorching hot day, which gave the general classification a shake up.
Caminito del Rey returned on the race, but this time the finish was slightly different, less severe and more friendly than three years ago. Nevertheless, the last of the stage's four climbs was a hard one and provided the GC contenders with a good opportunity to test their legs on the hard ramps of the 7.1km-long Alto de Guadalhorce, where Laurens De Plus was the first to attack with 1600 meters to go.
Riding under the flamme rouge banner, the Belgian still had a small gap on what was a disorganized and reduced peloton, and kept pressing on, only to be caught agonizingly close to the finish line, just nefore the final bend, by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), who fought for the win, nabbed by the former.
Laurens managed to held on for third – his best result at World Tour level – and move up to fourth in the overall standings, and despite missing out on what would have been a big day, he didn't show any disappointment: "The plan was to put Dries in a good position, but as soon as I rode to the front and opened a gap, he told me to keep going and as I had some speed I decided to give it a try. The meters passed and as I was approaching the finish – 1000 meters, 600 meters, 300 meters – I began to think that maybe it will be my first pro victory, but in the end I got beaten by two world class riders, so I can't be said. On the contrary, this is a morale-boosting result for the next three weeks."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images