Bennett (BOH), in Oviedo -after a pile-up which involved Valverde and Rojas-, and Groenewegen (TJV), in Scotland, win bunch sprints in Vuelta a España & Tour of Britain; Majerus (DLT) takes over GC lead in Holland as Sheyla Gutiérrez abandons due to crash.
The Movistar Team tackled on Saturday the first of two triple-duty days this weekend at the Vuelta a España, the Boels Ladies Tour and the Tour of Britain. At stage 14 of the Spanish grandtour -188km along the Asturian coast, from San Vicente de la Barquera to Oviedo-, the peloton did not miss its chance to seek for a sprint finish they won’t enjoy many like before Madrid. However, a crash inside the final kilometer, with the sprinters nearly fighting for victory, split the peloton as Sam Bennett (BOH) claimed the day’s honours, with Marc Soler in 6th place.
José Joaquín Rojas, Imanol Erviti and Alejandro Valverde were the main riders involved in a crash which didn’t cause, though, any major injuries to the Blues. Valverde stays in 2nd place overall behind Primoz Roglic (TJV) as Nairo Quintana sits in 5th spot, before two crucial mountain stages in the Principality which could even define the GC podium. Sunday’s stage 15 features four big climbs, including the two ascents to the Santuario del Acebo (Cat-1), another mountain-top finish.
Alejandro Valverde: “I was almost still as I crashed. I don’t think it’s going to affect me; the wrist hurts just a little bit, I don’t think it’s too serious, just the blow. Actually, I felt near the finish like a crash was going to happen. It was an uphill finish, there could be some splits, and everyone wanted to stay near the front. Fast speeds, lots of nerves, two riders touched wheels, and everyone went down. I think I’m OK – I just want to get to the hotel and recover. Other than that crash, the day went pretty well for us, even if it wasn’t easy: 2300m of vertical gain, and a huge pace over the final climb. Two big mountains days coming up – let’s make the most of them.”
Boels Ladies Tour: Rain and wind take its toll towards Nijmegen
It was quite less of a generous day with the Movistar Team riders at stage four of the Boels Ladies Tour (UCI WWT), 135km from Arnhem to Nijmegen, covered under rain torrential at times and strong winds which split the peloton from afar. Alicia González, Roxane Fournier and Malgorzata Jasinska -eventually the top Blue finisher, into a 20-strong selection following the tough hill of Oude Holleweg– kept the front into the echelons formed 70km from the end, before which Sheyla Gutiérrez crashed.
The Spaniard, with pain to her chest and left arm, as well as her head, was forced to abandon near the finish after her incident, which leaves the Telefónica-backed squad down to four members before Sunday’s showdown in Arnhem. Christine Majerus (DLT) is the new race leader after she took to fruition a three-woman move, together with stage winner Franziska Koch (SUN) and Riejanne Markus (CCC, 3rd), into the final 40km.
Tour of Britain: Groenewegen wins opening bunch sprint
The Blues’ action on Saturday was completed by the first stage of the Tour of Britain, a sunny route through Scotland, 201km from Glasgow to Kirkcudbright, where Team Jumbo-Visma kept under control the early breakaway for the entire route and launched a powerful final sprint with Dylan Groenewegen, first race leader. Andrey Amador (22nd) was the top Movistar Team finisher in an otherwise uneventful debut. The sprinters will seek for a second chance on Sunday, with the Dingleton hill (2.4km at 7%) set to make things harder just 20km from the finish in Kelso.
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport