First Steve Cummings did it at the Tour de France. Then today Kristian Sbaragli delivered a stage victory at the Vuelta for everyone’s favourite underdog team, MTN-Qhubeka. He held off John Degenkolb for the win on a largely incident-free day for the GC contenders who, along with everyone else, will be grateful for the respite of tomorrow’s rest day.
The cat 2 climb just before the finish didn’t get in the way of a sprint finish, with Sbaragli emerging triumphant from the few remaining sprinters. Around 40 riders made a break for it over the lumpier first half of today’s stage, but were hauled in with 55km to go. With the peloton in a hurry to get to the finish, nobody else was able to escape their clutches for long. Given how many big-name sprinters have now abandoned the race, all eyes were on Degenkolb but a lack of control in the final kilometre saw the Mighty Degs boxed in and, despite a late charge, he couldn’t overcome Sbaragli’s well-timed sprint.
Rider of the day
I was tempted to single out Kenny Elissonde for his attack on the final climb but really it has to be Kristian Sbaragli. MTN-Qhubeka victories are almost as well received as Christmas and this was no exception. It was a tricky stage to judge, with a tough climb late on and then a fast, tight run-in which featured more furniture than your average IKEA but judge it he did. Follow that with a joyful celebration, an emotional podium appearance and the smile it brought to Juan Antonio Flecha’s face, and you’ve got cycling gold.
Two things we noticed
1. Testing 1-2, 1-2. When the race came back together with around 55km to go and frankly went a little flat, we were provided with a touch of unintentional entertainment via some microphone problems in the Eurosport commentary box. Poor old Sean Kelly was heard saying “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”, obviously not realising that he couldn’t hear all of us at home saying “Yes, Sean!” Cue a quick cut to the ever cheerful Laura Meseguer interviewing Niki Terpstra, who promptly jinxed his chances by talking confidently about his plans to attack. (He was caught moments after they cut back to the race.)
2. Skyfall. It was a pretty eventful stage for Sky, who will be glad of a rest day after a trio of crashes. Firstly Salvatore Puccio and Nico Roche came a cropper on a tight right-hand turn, with the latter needing to change bikes and work hard to get back into the fast-moving peloton. Then, to further worsen their day, Sergio Henao took a nasty looking tumble on the descent of Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, breaking his bike and losing a lot of skin and time in the process.
Stage 10 result
1. Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) 3:12:43
2. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) same time
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) s/t
4. Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) s/t
5. Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural) s/t
1. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) 38:34:56
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:57
3. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:59
4. Nicolas Roche (Sky) +1:07
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +1:13
6. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:17
7. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1:17
8. Chris Froome (Sky) +1:18
9. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:47
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:52
Points leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
King of the Mountains leader: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural)
Combined classification leader: Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin)
Team classification leader: Sky.
Link: Official race website