Another day for the breakaway (we could get used to this kind of Grand Tour) and Stage 12 of Vuelta 2018 saw another super-break form. The peloton let it go, which led to Alexandre Geniez of Ag2r winning the stage and there was a shock change in the red jersey with the biggest lead over second this Vuelta.
Inner Ring’s stage preview this morning promised “a trip to the Punta de Estaca de Bares, Spain’s northern-most point with the finish by the lighthouse on the cape”. It sounded delightful. However, the weather forecast suggested this wasn’t going to be a sun-soaked trip to the seaside.
With the terrain spot-on for a break and GC minds would be focussed on summit finishes looming from tomorrow, it was another Vuelta super-break forming early on. Forget the riders forced to go it alone to get some sponsor exposure, this 18-man group included big names eager to take the win, including Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Dylan Teuns (BMC).
Once the break had a six-minute advantage, Jesus Herrada of Cofidis was in the virtual red jersey. I’ll say that again: at one point this afternoon a Cofidis rider was the virtual leader of the Vuelta! Surely it was unthinkable that a member of France’s red machine would be in actual red at the end of the day!
It soon became time to think the unthinkable. In the peloton, Mitchelton-Scott gave off some major “anyone else but us” vibes again. With three days of brutal climbing starting tomorrow, no other GC team was willing to go deep and chase the break down. As the gap grew to 11 minutes and stayed there, it gradually became obvious that the Spanish rider on the French team was going to be wearing a different shade of red on the podium. Starting the day 5:45 behind on GC, Herrada finished the day 3 minutes ahead of second-placed Simon Yates. While he’s not seen as much of a threat, he’ll be keen to prove them wrong in the coming stages.
The break fractured with 20 kms to go with 8 riders going clear of the rest. At the end, four of them (including Teuns and Mark Padun) contested a sprint over the final 500 metres with Alexandre Geniez pipping Sky’s Dylan van Baarle at the line to take the win.
(Retired) Rider of the Race
Alexandre Geniez should get a mention. That was an enormously powerful break he was in and to time his attacks and sprints so well is a testament to the rider he is. As he put it:
I could do this kind of racing all day long. Everyone [in the break] had a chance today, nothing was sure, I just had to empty myself and that’s what I did.
But today, my rider of the race isn’t even riding. In fact, he retired 11 years ago.
Step forward Cedric Vasseur, general manager of the Cofidis team. In less than a year in charge of the French squad, he’s totally changed their image. By instilling a sense of discipline and encouraging his riders to achieve, they’ve gradually moved from being the “joke team” to the leaders at the Vuelta.
Cofidis have been far more visible at races this season, no longer hiding inside the peloton. Nacer Bouhanni‘s stage 6 win had already enhanced their Grand Tour reputation and Herrada’s red jersey makes it even less likely that they will continue to be the butt of the joke.
When they roll out tomorrow, Cofidis will be wearing both the leader’s red jersey and the King of Mountains polka dots. Something to take quite seriously.
Just when you think it’s all over
Geniez and Van Baarle cross the line and face their biggest danger of the day: an official not looking where he’s going.
It’s a summit finish at La Camperona. Right now, the top GC contenders are separated by less than a minute. How tight will it be after some 25% ramps? Grab the popcorn.
1 Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r) 4:22:59
2 Dylan Van Baarle (Sky) same time
3 Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida) s/t
4 Dylan Teuns (BMC) s/t
5 Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) +0.02
1 Jesus Herrada (Cofidis… yes Cofidis!) 50:28:56
2 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +3:22
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3:23
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:36
5 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +3:39
6 Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) +3:46
7 Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) same time
8 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +3:49
9 Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) +3:54
10 Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +4.05
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Jesus Herrada (Cofidis)
Points jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Climber’s jersey: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
Combined jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Team classification: Bahrain-Media
Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Michael Steele