Team Sunweb rider Wilco Kelderman continued his impressive battle for a top general classification placing in the Vuelta a España, riding well through the mountains during week two of the three-week grand tour and rising all the way up to third-place overall following a tough Stage 14 summit finish at La Pandera.
After back-to-back summit finishes on Stages 14-15 over the weekend, the 26-year-old Dutchman was fourth in the GC as the Vuelta paused for its second rest day before the final week of racing.
Kelderman made a steady march up the GC standings as the Vuelta traveled south through the mountains of Spain with some critical stages during the second week of the race. Riding his TCR Advanced SL team bike and wearing the Giant Rev helmet, the team’s young leader climbed his way into the top-five on a decisive Stage 11. He did it by matching the efforts of some of the best GC racers in the world on a final climb to the summit finish at Calor Alto. Kelderman finished fourth on that day, in a group with overall leader Chris Froome and second-place GC rider Vincenzo Nibali.
“Today the weather was really challenging,” Kelderman said after Stage 11. “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.”
Unfortunately, a few days later the team lost one of its key support men for the mountains when Sam Oomen had to abandon with an illness, but Kelderman soldiered on and held his ground through two critical mountain stages. On Stage 14, which featured the first hors categorie climb on a grueling ascent to La Pandera, he finished sixth and moved up to third overall.
“It wasn’t a great start to the day with Sam not feeling well,” Kelderman said. “It was hard to focus with such a bad moment going on for us. He helped me a lot and to lose him is a huge disappointment for the team but we will continue to fight for a good result here. The rest of the team did a great job to bring me into the final climbs in a good position. When the other GC guys started to attack I just rode my own pace and I always came back to the group which was perfect. It was a perfect day, the legs were good and I’m happy to move up to third with the best guys.”
Kelderman was again up to the task on Stage 15, a short and brutal stage with three big climbs over 129km with a summit finish at Alto de la Mora.
“Today was a short, hard and really fast stage,” Kelderman said after Sunday's Stage 15. “We planned for the team to put me in a good position, and they did a great job. My legs were good throughout the stage, and when there were attacks I decided to follow as the group had a good pace.”
Kelderman again proved his ability to climb with the best in the world, and finished the stage in third place. “In the last kilometer I gave everything I had straight through to the line and still had it in me to sprint to third," he said.
After the final rest day, Kelderman and his teammates now turn their attention to the final six stages, with the race concluding September 10 in Madrid.