La Vuelta (st. 5)
Wellens (LTS) wins after break takes 100km, two hours to form, with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar Team) and GC contender Sepp Kuss (TJV) initially in. Late crash for José Joaquín Rojas, with no major consequence.
/ Today’s route
A journey through the Alto Aragón for La Vuelta on Saturday, with a quite demanding finale in the 184km from Huesca to Sabiñánigo, featuring three categorized ascents: Vio (Cat-2), Fanlo (Cat-3) and Petralba (Cat-2), the latter just 18km from an uphill final kilometer at 5%.
/ Weather report
Quite a pleasant day, with some clouds in an otherwise clear sky, temperatures between 11ºC (at the climbs) and 17ºC (in the lowest part of the route, near Barbastro) and southerly winds, not too strong.
/ Keys to the race
- One of the craziest race starts we can remember. It took 100km and two hours of racing to establish a break able to gain more than one minute on the bunch, and when it formed, it wasn’t ‘valid’, either, in terms of stage contention. Nelson Oliveira, the Movistar Team rider most involved in the early moves, joined a 12-man split featuring Sepp Kuss (TJV), just 44″ off in the GC, and Andrea Bagioli (DQT), 2’58” down. However, that split didn’t play as much of a significant role in the race as initially expected, as Wellens (LTS), Martin (COF) and Arensman (SUN) went for a further selection of the break in the Vio climb and left behind the rest of the move, caught by the bunch with 60km left.
- From that moment on, and despite a late effort from Total Direct Energie to catch the break, there were two separate races: a fight for stage contention, ultimately won by Wellens, and the GC. At the latter, the final slope in Sabiñánigo saw a crash caused by a tough of wheels between race leader Roglic (TJV) and José Joaquín Rojas, whoch took the Spaniard down alongside Dan Martin (ISN). ‘Rojillas’, fortunately, didn’t sustain any injuries.
- Despite Roglic (TJV) obtaining, as a result of the incident, a 4″ gap over the rest of the GC group, the race jury decided that all riders getting to the final slope together -with a good work from the Movistar Team in the approach- would be awarded the same time. The GC remained unchanged from Friday, with Enric Mas in 4th place, 32″ down on Roglic; Soler in 9th spot; and Alejandro Valverde in 11th.
Enric Mas: “I didn’t see the crash, to be honest. I was riding on the outside of that turn and the crash happened on the inside. I don’t know how it happened and I could only watch José Joaquín going down. They say a rider touched him from the inside, but I don’t know what happened. I hope the jury makes a clear choice about those splits, because it wasn’t a slope where we were going to lose any time, everyone was strong enough to finish together with each other. We were togethe before the crash and the splies happened afterwards.
“In the end, it was a really nervous, demanding stage before the break got former. It was an intelligent move from Kuss, too; should it have gone well for them as the break gained some time, it’d have been a worrying attack for us, but INEOS did a good job pushing hard before they took a significant gap and if they hadn’t done so, we would have gone to the front quickly. It will be another tough day tomorrow, a race of attrition, under rainy, cold conditions. It will be an important day with those finishing climbs.”
/ Upcoming goals
We can’t wait to get to Sunday’s stage six (watch out for the time change), which will put an end to the first block of La Vuelta with another mountain-top finish, different from the one originally scheduled atop the Fourmalet yet equally as interesting. Formigal (Cat-1), an irregular, 14km ascent with a final section of up to 9% gradient, will be preceded by the ‘altos’ of Petralba (Cat-3; climbing through today’s final descent) and Cotefablo (Cat-2) at a 146km route which already decided La Vuelta four years ago…
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport