It’s been another rip-roaring edition of the Race to the Sun. Egan Bernal (Sky) took his maiden Paris-Nice with a comfortable 39-second cushion after taking the leader’s jersey on the penultimate stage. This was despite a late smash-and-grab attempt from fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished runner-up in a Sky sandwich with former leader’s jersey wearer, Michal Kwiatkowski rounding out the podium. Indeed, it was a veritable return to form here for the Skybots, who scooped all the prizes save the KOM jersey.
Today’s stage 9 to La Covatilla’s summit was supposed to be on the upper Scoville scale for heat and spiciness but high temperatures and long transfers initially seemed to have sucked the life out of the peloton. Thankfully it sparked into life en route to the final climb with a race for the line and another for GC. Ben King (Dimension Data) took his second Vuelta stage, on yet another summit, from another long-range attack, dropping his breakmates 20km from the line and, despite being in the pain cave, magnificently hanging on to solo across the line ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Dylan Teuns (BMC). As anticipated, the GC was shaken and stirred with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) seizing the lead by a single solitary second from the evergreen Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with his teammate Nairo Quintana 14 seconds back in third.