Tour de France 2021 has already seen so much action, it would be easy to forget that this race only began two weeks ago. Each stage has had a unique story: there have been crashes galore, emotions by the truckload, and yesterday even witnessed history being made. But finally Stage 14 from Carcassonne to Quillan provided us with a conventional (and slightly dull) day in the saddle – and it almost felt like a relief!
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) shrewdly claimed the stage victory after attacking his breakaway companions on the penultimate descent of the day and steadily building an insurmountable lead. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) rounded out the day’s podium. There was also a small shuffle in the general classification as Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) moves up from eighth to second place overall. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) remains untouchable in the maillot jaune.
When the pundits picked their favourite to win the last Monument of the year, the choices were names like Egan Bernal, Primoz Roglic, perhaps Jakob Fuglsang or finally Alejandro Valverde. But no one picked – or even probably thought about – the Il Lombardia 2019 champion. The Trek-Segafredo team were active throughout the race, from Tom Skujins in the break of the day to Giulio Ciccone punching up the climbs, but one wouldn’t have expected an attack by Bauke Mollema on the Civiglio to stick. But stick it did, winning the Dutch rider his first Monument and Trek’s second big win in the past few weeks. Valverde and Bernal were 16sec off the pace to take second and third respectively.
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.