Jasper Stuyven of Trek Factory Racing took his first ever professional win on a helter skelter of a Vuelta stage into Murcia. He jumped away with 1oo metres to go, leaving a disappointed Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) and Kevin Reza (FDJ) to take second and third spots. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) survived a crash to finish in the lead group and keep his jersey safe for another day.
As fantastic as this victory is for Jasper and his team, stage eight will be remembered for all the crashes and incidents in the final 50kms that unfortunately put paid the hopes of stage winners and GC hopefuls alike. It all looked so innocuous on paper: the first 110km almost all slightly downhill, the wide roads into Murcia, before the finishing circuits with the tricky little climb and descent and a bunch sprint finish. But as we all know there is no such thing as a simple stage in the Vuelta.
A huge crash before the first ascent of the Cresto de Gallo saw many riders on the ground and splits in the peloton as they tried to chase back on. But it was the second ascent of the climb that saw so many attacks that it was hard to keep pace with them. The most promising move came from José Gonçalves (Caja Rural), Alberto Losada (Katusha) and Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) who crested with about 20 seconds advantage on the chaser. They nearly held on but fine work by Trek Factory Racing and Tinkoff-Saxo brought them back at 4km to set up the bunch finish.
Rider of the stage
When the action is as frantic as today, it’s very hard to single out one rider for praise. However, there is one rider who perhaps needs a little extra consolation tonight and that is Alex Howes (Team Cannondale-Garmin). He made it into the six-man break of the day and as they hit the climb for the first time, he accelerated, dropping his companions to hold about 45 seconds as he went over the summit. And then disaster struck on the descent. He overcooked a corner, locked his back wheel and ended up wedged under the barrier at the side of the road. Thankfully as he tweeted himself, the only thing hurt was his pride.
Four things we noticed
1 Cresto de Gallo What a climb! So narrow that teams had to fight for position – if you weren’t in the first 20 riders when the slope went up, you were not going to see the front. The surface was so rough it must have been like riding through treacle and the descent was a twisted, tortuous affair that invited attacks but punished the unwary. We loved it, and so did the huge and well behaved crowds who came out to cheer the riders on.
2 Crash-a-rama Yes, crashes are part and parcel of bike racing but it’s always horrible to watch them unfold on our screens. Sometimes riders hit the tarmac and are able to get up and ride on – today’s stage winner and the overall race leader were both on the floor. Sometimes though we endure heart-stopping moments as riders fall and remain motionless or sustain more serious injuries. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) have all retired from the Vuelta after being involved the huge crash – we wish them a speedy recovery. Kris Boeckmans of Lotto-Soudal, however, was the most badly injured.
And if you think we were worried when we saw riders lying on the ground motionless, here’s what happens when a teammate sees it. Here’s hoping all goes well with Boeckmans’ recovery.
3 Race vehicles again! It’s one thing to be taken out in a racing incident, quite another to have your race marred by official vehicles. As the chasing group came off the the final descent with 8km to go, stage favourite Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) went on the attack. We didn’t see exactly what happened but when the camera panned back, we saw a furious Sagan off his bike and tearing strips from the surrounding race vehicles. As he rode to the finish with ripped shorts and an ugly amount of shredded thigh on show, it became clear that a race motorbike had collided with him. Come to find out, race commissaires have fined Sagan 400 Swiss francs as they deemed his behaviour after the crash unsavoury. There were rumours that the moto driver has been thrown off the race but we can’t confirm that.
This is certainly not the first time we have seen this at races this year: neutral service vehicles at Ronde Van Vlanderen; camera motorbikes at Tour de France; and infamously Clasica San Sebastian. The riders have enough to think about riding the race without having to worry about vehicles moving to overtake on the wrong side, as was the case today. If this means the race has to switch to overhead shots from a distance so be it. I’d much rather that than a rider being taken out of the action.
4 Attack mode activated On a day full of great attacks by lots of different riders, one of the best moments came right at the end when Adam Hansen, Lotto Soudal’s breakaway artist extraordinaire, shot away on one of his trademark solo TT rides. It was the perfect distance for him at 2km to go and he very nearly made it, getting swept up on the finishing straight. Remember this face because no doubt he’ll be making these kinds of moves again in the next two weeks.
1. Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) 04:06:05
2. Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) same time
3. Kévin Réza (FDJ) s/t
4. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) s/t
5. Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) s/t
1. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +31:12:18
2. Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) +0:10
3. Nico Roche (Team Sky) +0:36
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:49
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:56
6. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:57
7. Fabio Aru (Astana) same time
8. Dani Moreno (Katusha) +1:18
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:19
10. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) +1:21
Points leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
King of the Mountains leader: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural)
Combined classification leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
Team classification leader: Team Sky
Link: Official race website
Header image: © Javier Belver/Vuelta