This stage was always going to fizz with attackity excitement, and the man popping the Cava was none other than the rider with THE BEST nose for a breakaway Thomas de Gendt. The Belgian beast joined a star-studded break at the start, was alert to every move that went on a day full of climbs and descents, and finished it off with the sprint of his LIFE to complete his Grand Tour hat-trick. That makes four Vuelta victories to Lotto-Soudal. Behind, there was no change on GC, although the Sky train had to work hard to bring back yet another Alberto Contador attack!
Rider of the Race
It’s hard to ignore Panache’s mancrush Thomas de Gendt and his breakaway brilliance. He was crafty and resilient and surged over the line with such emotion. It seemed as though that one yell and arm punch finally released any lingering disappointment from the Tour de France. However, my award today goes Bahrain-Merida’s young Spaniard Ivan Cortina.
Just imagine. You’re 21. You’re riding your first Grand Tour and heading into unchartered third-week waters. Today is your region of Spain’s National Day. The finish is in your home town. And to top it off your whole country is desperate for a first home rider win at their home race. That’s some pressure, but if Ivan was feeling overwhelmed it certainly didn’t show.
Given the green light by his team, he made the break and made best use of his home-road advantage by soloing away just before the last climb. The crowds cheered him up the wall of an ascent and even though he was caught at the summit by Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) the pair attacked the swooping descent. As more riders bridged across on the run into Gijon it looked as though Ivan’s chances were decreasing by the minute. Cool-as-a-cumber he settled in to wait and when BMC’s Nicolas Roche opened his sprint from a long way out, Ivan came round with him with some aplomb. Spanish fans held their breath, the line beckoned, but as he faded de Gendt and Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) timed their surge that little bit better. He related post race that he was cramping up badly and that’s why he opened early.
The victory wasn’t to be, but boy-oh-boy it wasn’t for the want of trying and what a special experience to take with you. Last word to Ivan …
We had a couple of riders celebrating birthdays. I’m not sure how successful the carrot and stick approach from Manzana Postobon’s Jetse Bol was.
It was also the special day for VeloVoices favourite Koen de Kort
Koen’s day started with a wonderful surprise gift from his wife presented by Eurosport’s Laura Meseguer. I love Sam Guillemot’s work (you can see more here)
He celebrated in some style with a FULL GAS rampage on the ramps of the Alto de San Martín de Huerces to launch Alberto Contador on another panache-tastic attack.
Then finished the day of with a well earned slice of birthday cake served with some Basque ululation.
I’m not crying – you are!
We have two more days of a racing Baby Blackbird and you can bet we’ll see one last attack tomorrow – the Angliru beckons.
Join us on twitter from the get go, it’s going to be all guns blazing.
Top 5 stage
1 Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 3:35:46
2 Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) same time
3 Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) s/t
4 Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) s/t
5 Floris de Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t
Top 5 GC
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 75:51:51
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) +1:37
3 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +2:17
4 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) +2:29
5 Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) +3:34
All the jerseys
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points: Chris Froome (Sky)
KOM: Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac)
Combined: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Team Classification: Astana
Most Aggressive Rider: Daniel Navarro (Cofidis)
Header image: Thomas de Gendt © JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images