A saw tooth profile and stage surely marked with big red breakaway asterisks in everyone’s road book produced a brutal, crazy day of high-paced racing. BMC put three riders in the break and Allesandro De Marchi brought home their second Vuelta victory and his third with a gutsy ride that owed as much to his head as his legs – finally dropping Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin) on the last incline to solo home. Despite a feisty Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) stomping his way into the virtual red jersey and a flurry of action in the favourites group on the run to the line, the stage ended with no change to the GC podium.
Rider of the Race
Oh, I was seriously tempted to hand this award to Thibaut Pinot for his audacious roll of the dice and the sheer joy it gave me watching him at work on his favoured territory. Alas, he worked a little too hard and it was all in vain (see later). Instead my vote goes to someone that raced with his head and his heart – stage winner Alessandro De Marchi. A rider with four professional wins to his name, three of them solo rides to glory at the Vuelta. Maybe the Spanish grand tour suits his style or maybe he just gets the chance to ride for himself here.
Disappointed with his third place on stage 5, he rode smart and clever to get into the break with teammates Dylan Teuns and Nicolas Roche.
At one moment today, I said to myself that I just needed to keep trying and going because every moment was a battle. Every move was looking like the good one and then they would come back. It was really difficult and I just thought I would do the maximum that I could and we would see.
He attacked solo on the final categorised climb of the day with 80km a move only Restrepo could follow. What followed was a fascinating duel between the wily Italian and the young Colombian hotshot. De Marchi tried every trick in his armoury to tire out and drop his companion, knowing that he had the faster finishing kick. But it seemed his companion was equal to everything.
The kilometres ticked by and there was one chance remaining – a vicious 10% ramp in the last 5km. With a powerful all-or-nothing surge he finally snapped the elastic and put daylight between them. His face a mask of concentration as he navigated treacherous corners in a torrent of sudden Spanish rain. With the finish in sight he had enough time to straighten up and savour his victory, arms outstretched across the line. You can see how much it meant to him.
For a rider like me who tries a lot, you need to be first at the line sometimes. You need to be there in the results. I have missed a few good results in the last season but now I can say that I understand what I have to do. Sometimes you think you are missing something of yourself and you lose the feeling [of winning] but you need to be patient and the right moment will arrive. I had the feeling of liberation in the last kilometer. I waited a long time for this moment and the last three years have been up and down a lot. Today, I found myself again.
Pinot’s poker face
It took just over 100km of fast and frantic racing before the break of the day was allowed any freedom. Attack after attack went clear but was chased down as it was never the right combination to keep everyone happy. I can only imagine the riders at the back on a bad day just praying for it to stop. When the dust settled there were some very interesting names among the 19 listed – not least Groupama-FDJ’s leader Pinot who started the day at +2:03mins.
The gap grew beyond two minutes putting the Frenchman in virtual red.
It ballooned out to four minutes, French hopes soared along with my excitement. Frustrated by the lack of attacking ambition in his group Tibo went into full stomping mode on the Alto de Trives, breaking clear with Teuns to stretch his advantage. He attacked again on the Mirador de Cabezoas with 26km to go but was unable to follow De Marchi when he made his solo bid for glory and was doomed to carry on an increasingly hopeless chase while the red jersey group brought his advantage down.
At the end of the day he gained 13 seconds and remains exactly in the same GC position and has used a huge amount of energy he will need in the days to come. But, oh what fight and entertainment he showed. It’s precisely why he’s a firm favourite at VeloVoices Towers. #AllezThibaut
“It was a game of poker … It did not work but I will try again … I came to have fun … I took it, I feel good. I have spent energy, but I do not calculate, I do not want to calculate. ”
With Pinot on the rampage in the breakaway, Orica-Scott appeared to feel no need to ride in defence of Simon Yates red jersey. It really felt like a game of who would blink first, the Aussie outfit or Movistar. In the end the Spanish team lowered their eyes, took to the front and chased hard to swing the advantage back to the group of favourites.
I did enjoy this post race exchange of views reported by Cycling News
Seems like the Vuelta is about to get extra spicy. With three stages in the Asturias to look forward to and the top 10 separated by a mere 47 seconds I think my colleague will be in for a roller-coaster of excitement.
1 Allesandro de Marchi (BMC) 4:52:38
2 Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin) +0:28
3 Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida) +0:59
4 Nans Peters (AG2R-La Mondiale) +1:24
5 Dylan Teuns (BMC) 1:45
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 45:57:40
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:01
3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:14
4 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +0:17
5 Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:24
6 Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) same time
7 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +0:27
8 Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) +0:32
9 Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +0:43
10 George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) +0:48
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Points jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Climber’s jersey: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
Combined jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Team classification: LottoNL-Jumbo
Header: Michael Steele/Getty Images