Quick-Step Floors drive the pace, the GC contenders take it easy and Dimension Data are down to just three
Quick-Step Floors take no prisoners
Helping secure Matteo Trentin’s third stage victory of the Vuelta a España and the team’s fifth altogether, Quick-Step Floors were pivotal in chasing the breakaway in a race that has been quite lenient on letting them go in recent stages.
The Belgian team ramped up the pace with 30km to a near sprint level as they looked to reel in the last remnants of the day’s initial attack who were holding at 1-25.
With the day’s heat taking its toll the breakaway whittled down to just two before Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) found himself on his own, 30 seconds ahead with just 10km to go.
Being the last sprint stage until Madrid, Quick-Step weren’t going to let victory slip through their grasp easily and pushed on, catching the Italian with 7km to the line. Clearly in the form of his life though, Trentin picked his spot in the final sprint and won with ease after a valiant team effort.
Return to normal sprinting procedures for Team Sky
With a lack of sprinting teams in the field Team Sky have found themselves on the front of the peloton more than they may have liked over the course of this race and would go some way to explaining the amount of successful breakaways.
However, today saw Froome and his colleagues take a back seat with Quick-Step Floors eyeing up a sprinting victory before the peloton arrives in Madrid. This allowed Team Sky to take stock and focus on staying upright, something Froome struggled with on stage 12.
That didn’t stop Froome from fighting it out in the sprint though, finishing a respectable seventh on the day, maintaining his overall lead, while team-mate Gianni Moscon had a go himself and claimed second on the stage behind Trentin.
Two decisive days to come
For many of the GC contenders today was a preamble for the real test that will come in the next two days with two summit finishes. Froome wasn’t the only one to sit deep within the peloton with Nibali, who is currently second 59 seconds down, on his tail the whole day.
It’s understandable with the two upcoming summit finishes compromising of a first and especial category climbs.
First up is the Sierra de la Pandera, a 12km long climb with an average gradient of 7.3 per cent after 163km of riding. The following day sees the peloton ride 110km before they take on the Alto Hoya de la Mora. This 19km climb has a few nasty ramps in there despite its average gradient of 5.6 per cent.
The next two days of racing will go a long way to shaping the outcome of this race.
Dimension Data go down to three
This year’s Vuelta is no walk in the park for Dimension Data who have to contend with another rider leaving the race.
The African team was originally down to four riders after a bout of illness and injury saw three of their riders either crash out or not start before Serge Pauwels failed to make the start on stage 12.
Their woes were compounded when Omar Fraile was seen vomiting while still on his bike on stage 13, not long before he called it a day.
That leaves just three riders to survive eight stages before finishing in Madrid. Whether they’ve also succumb to the same illness that their fellow riders became victim of remains to be seen but it’s clear this is going to be one long race for them.
Bike racing is both dangerous and fun
A nasty crash saw Jetse Bol (Manzana Postobon) come away some severe gashes to his left calf. The culprit? The big chainring. Much like the debate on whether to allow disc brakes into the pro peloton, today was a reminder of the dangers that riders face not only from the road but their own equipment.
However, Alberto Contador‘s Trek-Segafredo team also showed how bike racing can be fun and enjoyable with Markel Irizar giving his best rendition of La Bamba by Ritchie Valens.
A brief respite for Contador from the day’s sole intention of making it across the line in one piece.
The juxtaposing images showed bike racing in it’s truest form being dangerous, fun and a little eccentric.