Alberto Dainese (DSM-Firmenich) avoided a near-disastrous crash at the front of the pack with just over a kilometer to go to win a reduced-bunch sprint on stage 19 of the Vuelta a España. The crash happened as EF Education-EasyPost was moving to the front, and an Alpecin-Deceuninck rider drifted slightly left while looking over his right shoulder. A touch of wheels brought down around half a dozen riders, mostly from DSM and Alpecin, and split the field. Among those involved was green jersey Kaden Groves, who executed a high-speed dismount and somehow never lost his feet.
With fewer than 30 riders left at the front, Ineos Grenadiers’ Filippo Ganna opened the sprint after getting dropped off just a tad early by his leadout, and Dainese came around with a superior finishing kick to take the win. EF’s Marijn van den Berg took third. None of the overall contenders went down in the crash, and as it came well within the 3 km to go mark, there were no changes to GC.
- After a heavy, often-odd week of racing and ahead of a wickedly hard stage 20, most of the pack seemed content to have a straightforward sprint day: modest-size early breakaway, kept at a reasonable distance much of the day, and re-caught comfortably before the line. All appeared to be proceeding to plan, with the minor exception that Clement Davy (Groupama-FDJ) stayed clear of the chase just long enough to take top points at the intermediate sprint, followed by Groves. The final kilometers unfolded smoothly as well until the crash.
- Bad as it was, the crash produced blessedly little carnage overall. It had all the ingredients of a mass pileup as it happened at the very front of a large, fast-moving pack. But perhaps because it came in the final kilometers when all riders are on high alert, most of the field was able to avoid it. Several of the Alpecin and DSM riders had obvious superficial wounds at least, but all 148 riders left in the race finished.
- Groves didn’t get the chance to contest the sprint and so will have to wait for Madrid for a shot at a fourth stage win, but his work in the intermediate sprint did give him a bit more breathing room in the points competition, where he leads Remco Evenepoel 245-192. The Soudal Quick-Step rider is a likely candidate for a breakaway tomorrow, so the competition isn’t over, but Groves looks much more likely to keep green to Madrid.
Quote of the day
“These stages are more stressful now; normally I just sit at the back and go to the finish, but now there’s a lot more to lose.”
-Kuss, on how riding in the lead makes even sprint stages a more anxious affair
Another quote of the day
Jumbo-Visma’s Attila Valter was disarmingly candid at the finish, giving Eurosport/GCN+ a small look into how the week’s events appeared from his POV. The whole exchange is worth a watch on the replay, but here’s the most relevant reply (edited for clarity and brevity):
“Swimming through the Twitter, it’s getting quite annoying. There is just too much opinion. It’s really easy to judge a team from outside. We did what we thought is the best, the team gave the freedom for everyone to to race for the victory. And that’s how they did and in the end, you saw it yesterday that everyone was happy to win. But if you are a big champion, like Primož, of course you have this fight to want to win, and until you are empty, you want to just keep pushing. So it’s of course a big dilemma. And you can understand both sides. In the end, I think everyone is really happy with it.”
Best of social
Not the best angle, but Groves’ flying dismount in the crash suggests that if he ever tires of being a pro cyclist, gymnast or, uh, ski jumper might be ideal alternate career paths.
Up next: stage 20
Yikes. Apologies to Christopher Walken, but the Vuelta’s route designers apparently have a fever and the only cure is moar climbing. The profile of stage 20 from Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama looks like an Ardennes classic, with 10 climbs scattered more or less evenly over the 207.8 km route. None are long or steep by Vuelta standards, and all rate a uniform Category 3. But they add up to over 4,300 meters of climbing. With Madrid looking like a near-sure sprint finish, this is the last chance for any breakaway success and on such an auspicious course there will be many motivated to go for it. For red jersey Kuss, it promises to be a long and hard day: Jumbo will have to be vigilant at the front to ensure that the early breakaway doesn’t contain any dangerous names, and ride a hard-enough tempo to discourage later attacks as well. Evenepoel is an obvious pick for a breakaway. His stage 18 companion Max Poole was a bit banged up from the crash today, but Romain Bardet is another option, and Lidl-Trek might be interested in a go with a rider like Juan Pedro Lopez or Bauke Mollema.
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