It was one of those Vuelta flat stages that took in four categorised climbs and finished on the uphill. I suspect the organisers were using the term ‘flat’ in the loosest possible way. The climbs might have been a Cat 2 and three Cat 3s but it did the damage. Alejandro Valverde outsprinted Michal Kwiatkowski and Laurens De Plus for the stage win, but the Sky rider took the red from Rohan Dennis, who came in more than 13min down and tumbles to 139th.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
To be honest, this stage wasn’t the most scintillating but it did throw up some interesting results for GC hopefuls. So who to give Rider of the Race to? For sheer foxiness, I’m going to give it to Alejandro Valverde, who spent most of the stage riding in the pack, not showing his intentions, until the final few hundred metres, when he picked the perfect moment to best Kwiatkowski and De Plus and take a fine stage win.Embed from Getty Images
As non-plussed as I was about the stage final, a word for Michal Kwiatkowski is definitely in order. I’ve been a fan of the Polish rider from waaaaaaay back and even though I don’t believe that he’s a GC contender (ruffling some Twitter feathers), particularly considering the stages to come in the third week, it’s always good to see riders of all specialities don the leader’s jersey for however long they get to keep it. That said, he will probably keep it for most of the week, as the parcours for the medium mountain stages shouldn’t be too onerous for him or his Sky team. The real crunch could come next Sunday, when it’s a long, hefty climbing stage with an HC summit finish with some double-digit gradients.
Winners and not-so-winning riders of the dayEmbed from Getty Images
The GC top ten is starting to look intriguing with some interesting riders doing rather well in what was a surprisingly difficult stage for others. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Jon Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) all in the top 10, with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) not far behind.Embed from Getty Images
Some riders GC tilt seems to be over before it’s begun. One of whom is Richie Porte, who came into the Vuelta with a stomach bug and it seems to have taken its toll. He rolled in 13min13sec down today, which surely means best case scenario now is stage hunting. If he isn’t feeling well tomorrow, I’d bet he abandons. That gruppetto also included Adam Yates (surely riding support for Simon now) and Peter Sagan (who looked uncomfortable all day). Vincenzo Nibali limited the damage of the day, coming in 4.04 behind Valverde and, historically, he’s always peaked in the third week – which is when the climbing might suit him better.
What does that mean? That there are 19 more stages and there are riders who will have it all to play for.
1 Alejandro Valverde 4:13:01
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) same time
3 Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) +0.03
4 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +0.03
5 George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) +0.03
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) 4:22:40
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0.14
3 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +0.25
4 Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) +0.28
5 Jon Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +0.30
6 Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) +0.30
7 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0.32
8 Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0.33
9 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0.33
10 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) +0.35
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
Points jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
Climber’s jersey: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
Combined jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
Team classification: Team Sky
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Michael Steele