Cobbles! Echelons! Rain! (Well, a few spots!) No, we’re not in Belgium we’re on the Vuelta a Espana 2017‘s longest stage in Castille-La Mancha. Once again, a rider from the break took the spoils today. Matej Mohoric attacked on the cobbles of the Alto del Castillo, powered down its descent and time-trialled to solo across the finish line, recording his maiden Grand and WorldTour victory. That’s three consecutive wins from the break and three debut Grand Tour victories – just brilliant! The peloton, containing all the GC contenders, rolled in over 8 minutes later. Chris Froome retains the race leader’s jersey.
Rider of the Race
Once again, my Rider of the Race is today’s stage winner. I first saw Matej Mohoric riding downhill on his top tube en route to victory in the Under-23 Road World Championships in Florence in 2013, exactly a year after he won the junior version in Valkenburg. He successfully deployed the same tactic today on the descent from Alto del Castillo, becoming only the second Slovenian to win a stage in the Vuelta.
With 17km to go, 22-year-old Matej flew out of the break and gained a few seconds advantage zooming round some road furniture before the final climb. He was joined by Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) whom he dropped at the foot of the 2km Alto del Castillo. The young Slovenian powered confidently up the cobbles, was then caught by a trio of break-mates whom he later distanced, and carved out an impressive advantage as he swept round the corners employing his “power-descending”. He then time-trialled his way to the finish line.
Before mounting the podium, young Matej confirmed:
It’s incredible, it’s a long time since my last big win and it feels great to get a victory again. I was in the break when Lutsenko won. I felt very good then, and even though the stage was not good for my characteristics, I got fourth. Today the team wanted me in the break, I tried to save as much energy as possible and I gave it all in the final. The final quite suited me, as I’m a pretty good descender. I needed to go away over the downhill. I’m happy for UAE who gave me the chance to compete in the Vuelta.
I first met Matej not long after he’d joined Cannondale in 2014. I thought he had a wise head on young shoulders. He was a bit star-struck about rooming with Ivan Basso (who wouldn’t be?) but looking forward to gaining some guidance from him on the steep learning curve to becoming a pro. When I asked him about his ambitions, he said:
You know, I don’t race for results or to wear a rainbow jersey, I race because I love it. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face and go to sleep every evening tired, but happy. These moments are irreplaceable and can be destroyed by anger or unhappiness. I try to be as happy as possible, to enjoy my life and be surrounded by happy, positive people who want only good things for you and for them. So, my goal is to be happy and satisfied.
That’s a great goal and I’m guessing Matej is one happy, satisfied bunny this evening!
Farewell Captain America
With 90km to go, friend of VeloVoices, US road race champion Larry Warbasse (Aqua Blue Sport) went down with a number of other riders as cross-winds caused havoc. Larry and two other riders abandoned the race as a result of their injuries. But, as you can see from the picture below, Captain America may be out, but he’s not down!
Top 5 stage
1 Matej Mohoric (UAE Emirates) 4:43:35
2 Pawel Poljanski (Bora-hansgrohe) +0:16
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) s/t
4 Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) s/t
5 Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) +0:27
Top 5 GC
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 27:46:51
2 Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) +0:11
3 Nicolas Roche (BMC) +0:13
4 Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:30
6 Vicenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) +0:36
All the jerseys
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points: Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM: Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac)
Combined: Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)
Team Classification: Movistar
Most Aggressive Rider: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
Header image: Matej Mohoric © GETTY/corbis/Tim de Waele