Another stage at La Vuelta, another frantic finale and another French rider on the top step of the podium. Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) picked the perfect moment to attack in the closing kilometres, holding the chasing pack at bay to solo over the line in jubilation. BORA-hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan popped up to grab second from the teeth of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). A spate of crashes and mechanicals on the narrow, twisty, rough roads to Pozo Alcón left Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski, amongst others, on the tarmac. The Polish national champion chased hard but had to concede forty seconds, slipping from second to sixth on GC and losing the points jersey to Valverde.
A seemingly innocuous stage with the peloton tra-la-la-ing along in anticipation of a sprint finish turned to chaos in the last 20km. A crash that should not have happened followed by a change of wind direction saw the bunch shatter into pieces and many GC riders in panic stations. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) kicked early and held his speed in the reduced bunch sprint, edging out LottoNL-Jumbo’s Danny van Poppel with a fast finishing Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) zooming from nowhere to claim third. Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) made the first group on the road and stays in the red jersey. His team mate Thibaut Pinot and Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman were not so lucky, coming in almost two minutes behind.
Another so-called Vuelta sprint stage – this time with over 2,500m of vertical gain from the Moorish grandeur of Granada down to the coast. Victory came from a three-up sprint for the line between riders who’d initially been part of the day’s large break. Simon Clarke (EF-Drapac) prevailed ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) to take his team’s first WorldTour win of the season. The trio’s cat-and-mousing in the final kilometres meant they were almost caught by the threesome in red-hot pursuit, which contained Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) who crucially finished 4:47 ahead of race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), sufficient to take the race lead and red jersey by 1:01. It’s the first time in 13 years that an FDJ rider has worn a race leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour. Break out the champagne!