Team Sunweb rider Wilco Kelderman climbed his way into the top-five in the general classification standings on a decisive Stage 11 at the Vuelta a España. Riding his TCR Advanced SL team bike, Kelderman matched the efforts of the race’s top contenders on the final climb to the summit finish at Calor Alto. He finished fourth on the day, in a group with overall leader Chris Froome and second-place GC rider Vincenzo Nibali.
With two Category 1 climbs in the final 50km, rising to a summit finish with an elevation of 2,160 meters, the 187km Stage 11 was expected to be a battle for the GC riders. The tough course was made even tougher with rain, wind and cold weather. Kelderman rose to the occasion, and with his strong performance he moved up from 11th to fifth overall. The 26-year-old Dutchman, who wore the Giant Rev helmet, now sits less than five seconds from a podium position in the GC standings.
“Today the weather was really challenging,” Kelderman said. “It was quite cold and rainy but everyone stayed focused on their job for the day. The team kept me in good position throughout the race and at the front when the climbs began. I was able to follow the best guys and finish fourth on the stage—a result I’m really happy with.”
Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef said the plan was to protect Kelderman through the first 100km, which was mostly flat, and help set him up for the big climbs at the finish.
“It was another rainy day at the Vuelta with two big mountains at the end of the day,” Reef said. “Our goal was to protect Wilco for as long as possible and then explore the possibilities of a breakaway. When 14 riders took a lead, Lennard Hofstede was part of the move, which was great. The break was brought back and we still had Sam [Oomen], Lennard Kämna and Wilco in the first group of 30 riders. The pace was really high and other GC riders started to drop, but Wilco could follow the moves to finish fourth on the stage. He moves up to fifth overall—a great day for us.”
The three-week Vuelta a España is final grand tour of 2017. The race continues over the next week-and-a-half and will finish September 10 in Madrid.