Fabio Jakobsen took his third stage win of the 2021 Vuelta a España on stage 16, the first stage of the final week.
Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) survived being dropped with around 60km to go to come back to the peloton and place himself perfectly to power to victory.
The breakaway gave their all with Stan Dewulf (Ag2r Citroën Team) holding on for a very long time but was eventually brought back due to the rapid pace of the bunch, eventually getting caught with 4km to go.
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) holds onto his leader's jersey for yet another day after finishing comfortably in the peloton.
How it happened
Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España started in the town of Laredo with a lumpy 180km route on the menu to get to the finish in Santa Cruz de Bezana.
Five riders went up the road early on but it became clear that the peloton were not letting them get away as the teams of the sprinters set the tempo to keep the time gap under two minutes throughout the stage.
The five riders that went up the road included Stan Dewulf (Ag2r Citroën Team), Dimitri Claeys (Qhubeka-NextHash), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi), as well as Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH).
As the race made it to the only categorised climb of the day, the steep Alto de Hijas, (3.7km with an average of 7.1 per cent) the gap was down to 1-40. Back in the bunch an attack came from Maxim Van Gils and Harm Vanhoucke (both Lotto-Soudal).
This was for Vanhoucke as Van Gils did a strong turn for his fellow Belgian and team-mate. He was sitting at 20 seconds over the top with 74km to go. Seven more riders tried a move out of the peloton but they weren’t given any time at all and were quickly dragged back.
This flurry of action saw the gap to the break dip under 50 seconds but the peloton were very keen to calm things down again as the sprinters' teams retook control with Ineos Grenadiers also being close to the front throughout.
With 67km to go, the gap did head back above a minute with Vanhoucke left chasing as he slowly closed in on the break. He did eventually make it across to them with 65km to go and a 1-23 gap to the peloton.
UAE Team Emirates suddenly came to the front with 60km remaining with the entire team setting a vicious pace that saw green jersey Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) lose touch, quickly dropping to 25 seconds behind.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step and Jakobsen made it back to the peloton with 45km to go but they were unable to move up through the bunch as the speed set by UAE Team Emirates continued. The break was still holding on though with 36 seconds back to the bunch as they continued to work effectively together.
With 36km to go Jakobsen got himself and the rest of his team onto the wheel of UAE Team Emirates as the bunch continued to shoot through the kilometres. But more teams started to swamp the front allowing the gap to the break to head back up to a minute yet again.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step, Team DSM, Alpecin-Fenix, and Groupama-FDJ took over the pacing yet again in the peloton with 30km to go. The gap sat at around a minute but accelerations in the bunch began yet again.
Vanhoucke was the first rider from the break to be caught with 13km to go with the gap at 26 seconds to the rest of the leaders as they made their way through the town of Boo (seriously).
Bol pushed on solo with 11km to go with the gap slipping to 16 seconds between the break and the bunch. He was joined by Dewulf and Claeys.
Lotto-Soudal tried yet again to get away with Andreas Kron attempting to bridge across to the leaders but the peloton were just a handful of seconds behind with Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma controlling the pace with 10km to go.
The powerful Belgian rider, Dewulf, tried to go solo at that moment, pulling the gap back to 20 seconds. Kron was dragged back in along with Bol and Claeys with 8km to go.
Dewulf was caught with 4km to go as Groupama-FDJ and Bora-Hansgrohe dominated the pace-setting in a very technical final few kilometres. As soon as the race hit 2km to go EF Education-Nippo and Deceuninck - Quick-Step came to the front with their sprinters.
Jakobsen was dropped off in fourth wheel as Alexander Krieger (Alpecin-Fenix) led everything out for his team-mate, but in fact he was leading out the other sprinters with Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) kicking things off before Jakobsen launched his sprint to take his third win.
Stage 17 of the Vuelta is arguably the 'Queen Stage'; a 185.8km ride from Unquera to the famous climb of Lagos de Covadonga with La Collada Llomena being taken on twice.
Vuelta a España 2021, stage 16: Laredo to Santa Cruz de Bezana (180km)
1. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, in 4-08-57
2. Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
5. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
6. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
8. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9. Antonio Soto (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën Team, all at same time
General classification after stage 16
1. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, in 64-06-47
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 54s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-36
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 2-11
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar, at 3-04
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at 3-35
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-21
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-34
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 4-59
10. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-31
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