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!
Headwinds and high temperatures appear to have sucked the life out of the first three stages of the Vuelta. Would it spark into spiciness on today’s summit finish in Alfaguara? Yes, but only on the slopes of the final climb where there were two races for the line. Ben King won the stage from a long-range attack ahead of two of his eight former breakaway companions, Nikita Stalnov (Astana) and Pierre Rolland (EF All the Words), sprinting away in the final 150 metres from the former to record his maiden WoldTour victory. Behind, the GC was stirred rather than shaken with Michal Kwiatkowski just managing to hang onto the leader’s jersey.
There was a constellation of stars taking part in the 38th edition of La Clasica San Sebastian which is generally won by a rider exiting the Tour de France in particularly fine fettle. This year was no exception. Bauke Mollema countered an attack just before the summit of the final climb, Julian Alaphilippe followed and thereafter two descended like stones to contend the sprint for the line. Alaphilippe lead it out but Molema didn’t have the same turn of speed as the Frenchman. The podium was rounded out by Antony Roux, best of the rest, in his tricolour jersey.