Wow! I bet no one was expecting UAE Team Emirate’s Marc Soler to grab victory on stage 5 of La Vuelta a Espana. To be honest, I’m still not sure I can explain it! In true Soler style, the mercurial Spaniard chased like crazy to get into the break, got dropped in a finale backloaded with climbs, somehow made it back, shot off the front solo on the Alto del Vivero, held his advantage on the descent and sailed over the line, arms aloft with four seconds to spare on his chasers. With Jumbo-Visma happy to let the race lead go to someone in the break-of-the-day, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) played his cards – and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) – perfectly to move into the red jersey for the second time in his career.
A week packed with some spicy stage finishes, three riders slipping the red jerset around their shoulders and some unexpected and joyful stage victories. All characteristics that make a great Vuelta – we LOVE it. Here’s a quick rundown from stages one to nine.
It’s been noted that the final few kilometres looked as though the organisers didn’t think this would be a bunch sprint. But as is usual in this Vuelta, there’s always a surprise somewhere. Because it was a bunch sprint. And that plucky young sprinter Alejandro Valverde let the world champion Peter Sagan lead him out to victory by a bike length. Although there was no movement in the GC placements, Valverde has decreased his deficit to the red jersey of Rudy Molard by 10 bonus seconds.