Bardet’s perfect day
As Saturdays go, Romain Bardet has had a pretty fantastic one.
The DSM rider was part of stage 14’s 18-man breakaway, intent on achieving one of two objectives: win the stage or take control of the mountain’s classification.
He achieved the latter mid-way through the stage, being the first to summit the first ascent of Pico Villuercas, superseding Damiano Caruso as the jersey wearer.
It looked as if he wouldn’t get his hands on the air, though, with his French compatriot Nicolas Prodhomme leading for almost 20km and looking, at one point, a very good bet to win the stage.
But when the AG2R Citroën rider was caught inside the final six kilometres, Bardet attacked and eventually soloed to a comfortable victory on the steep finishing slopes by 44 seconds. Remarkably, it was his first Grand Tour stage win in four years.
As a consequence of winning, he picked up more KOM points in the process, meaning he now has a lead of 19 points to Caruso in the race for the jersey.
Grab a glass of red, Romain, and enjoy the taste of success.
Movistar pull and López gains four seconds
Yesterday it was Egan Bernal reducing his deficit in the GC race by five seconds, and today it was Miguel Ángel López who went in search of a few extra seconds that could prove useful come the end of the race in eight days’ time.
The Colombian has largely been riding for his Movistar team-mate Enric Mas, but still remains part of the Spanish team’s two-up leadership, and the four seconds he accrued were a sign of his form and condition going into the final week.
His team has been active throughout their home Grand Tour and it was once again notable how they were eager to set the peloton’s pace throughout the stage, perhaps hoping that they could crack Primož Roglič after his two crashes in the week.
Sunday’s mountainous stage 15 will represent another chance for Movistar to stamp their authority on the race, and López looks strong to be at the head of any chaos caused.
But Roglič doesn’t crack and gains time on the leader
It was hoped, by the race organisers, that the double ascent of the terrific – and previously unused – Pico Villuercas would prompt a long-range attack, but alas the peloton were happy to let the break decide the day’s outcome.
That would have delighted Roglič and Jumbo-Visma, who will have been aware that Movistar and Ineos Grenadiers will be encouraged to attack him more given his two falls in the week.
The Slovenian didn’t come under any sustained pressure throughout the stage, though, and minus conceding four seconds to López, he actually gained time on a few of his rivals, including Adam Yates.
More importantly, he finished 20 seconds ahead of current race leader Odd Christian Eiking, the Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux rider seeing his lead slip to 54 seconds from Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and 1-36 to Roglič.
It’s still a healthy advantage and the probability is he’ll enter the second rest day in the race’s lead, but Roglič is getting closer to regaining the lead and showing that he doesn’t appear to be suffering any damages from his crashes.
Adam Yates loses time
Much like his twin brother Simon at the Giro d’Italia, Adam Yates is having a curious Grand Tour: some moments he looks like he’s the best climber in the field, and then other days he can’t keep up with the riders he’s trying to beat.
Stage 14 was another one of the latter for the Briton, shipping 12 seconds to Roglič and his own team-mate Bernal, the latter who coincidentally looks much improved over the last few days.
Yates targeted the Vuelta as his main season objective, so it’s not harsh to say more was expected of him.
Of course, there are still seven stages to go and a lot can happen, but sitting 3-13 adrift of Roglič – who is surely the leader-in-waiting – the Ineos Grenadiers rider cannot afford to keep conceding time, even if it just a little bit and not huge chunks of time.
The hope from Yates and his team will be that he has tapered well enough to peak in the final week and he can feel the benefits of not racing so much in the summer, unlike Roglič, Enric Mas, Lopez and Bernal.
Tom Pidcock has his first impressive Grand Tour day
Britain’s multi-discipline rider Tom Pidcock has been insistent from the start that his Grand Tour debut is all about learning and riding around Spain to get the feel of a three-week stage race.
He began the Vuelta just a few weeks after becoming Olympic champion in the mountain bike race, and has been largely unseen on the lap of Spain, except for a widely-shared photo of him wheeling up a climb earlier in the race.
On stage 14, however, Pidcock worked himself into the big breakaway and though he never looked like he would win the stage, he remained close to the head of proceedings when attacks started to go.
When Nicolas Prodhomme was eventually caught, Pidcock was suddenly in with a chance of breaking clear again, only for Bardet to steal the show.
But the 22-year-old carried on strongly and finished the day’s stage in fourth, 1.12 back from Bardet, and just four seconds ahead of his fellow Yorkshireman Matt Holmes (Lotto-Soudal).
Today felt like the day that Pidcock’s Grand Tour story had its first paragraph written.
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