Jasper Philipsen was the fastest in the mad dash to the line on stage five of the Vuelta a España 2021, taking his second stage win of the race.
It was a rapid lead-in on technical roads with riders bumping and barging through, but it was Alpecin-Fenix who placed Philipsen perfectly for the sprint. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) came up late to snatch second.
The wind did not blow on the way to Albacete but the nerves were still high on the flat straight roads. The day's main breakaway did push the peloton a bit with the last man caught with 15km to go. However, there was a crash with 10km left to race with red jersey Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) going down along with Romain Bardet (DSM).
This saw Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) move into the overall lead as he finished safely within the peloton.
How it happened
Stage five of the Vuelta a España 2021 started in the town of Tarancón before heading over an almost entirely flat day of 184.4km to a finish in Albacete. Crosswinds had been predicted ahead of the stage, though they failed to emerge.
Much like stage four, the fifth day of the race saw three riders go up the road early on, establishing a maximum gap of seven minutes.
Those three riders were Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH), Xabier Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural).
The peloton was controlled by Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and Alpecin-Fenix, with Groupama-FDJ and Deceuninck - Quick-Step joining the chase with 70km to go. The gap fell to under three minutes at the 60km remaining mark with the pace rather benign.
Lazkano won the intermediate sprint in the three-man break with Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) taking the final 13 and 10 points with 50km to go. The green jersey Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) did not contest the sprint as he had a comfortable lead in the points competition.
At 40km to go suddenly the wind appeared. It wasn’t quite strong enough to split things to begin with, but the pace was kept high as the nerves started to pick up. This ignited the break who pulled their gap out again by about 20 seconds to 2-18 with Sanchez getting dropped by Lazkano and Azparren with 33km to go.
The sprinters' teams were pushed off the front by the GC teams with Ineos Grenadiers, Movistar, Bahrain Victorious, Trek-Segafredo, and Jumbo-Visma all up to the front with 26km to go bringing the gap to the break down to 1-20.
Lazkano’s effort in the break was so persistent that he dropped Azparren as well, leaving him to go solo with 22km to go and a gap that was growing to 1-40.
EF Education-Nippo came to the front en masse with Hugh Carthy being looked after with 17km remaining as the gap to Lazkano finally dipped inside a minute as he started to sway all over the bike. He was eventually caught with 15km to go.
The pace still wasn’t rapid with 12km to ride as sprinters' teams and teams looking after the GC riders battled for position with no solid lead-outs appearing. A huge crash took out multiple riders including the race leader Taaramäe. They both got going again but Team DSM leader Romain Bardet stayed down and needed treatment.
The Frenchman did return to his bike but was losing a lot of time to the peloton with his team-mate Chris Hamilton who also went down.
Back at the front, Bahrain Victorious, Ineos Grenadiers, Alpecin-Fenix and Groupama-FDJ were hammering the speed in the bunch with 6km to go to make it to the 3km safety point. Taaramäe was on his own trying to battle back to the peloton, with team-mates then dropping back to him after he lost over a minute and a half to the peloton.
He never made it back due to the huge pace set by Ineos Grenadiers and Alpecin-Fenix, with the latter managing to hold onto control into the sprint leading Philipsen out perfectly.
Stage four winner Jakobsen was boxed out but managed to power through to second once again, but he still lost green to Philipsen by just one point.
The Vuelta a España continues on Thursday with stage six, another very flat stage but this time with a very sharp 2km climb right at the end of a 158.3km route from Requena to Alto de la Montaña de Cullera.
Vuelta a España 2021, stage five: Tarancón to Albacete (184.4km)
1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, in 4-24-41
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
3. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
4. Sebastian Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates
5. Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
6. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert
9. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Qhubeka-NextHash
10. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, all at the same time
General classification after stage five
1. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo, in 17-33-57
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 5s
3. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën Team, at 10s
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 20s
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar Team, 26s
6. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, 32s
7. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
8. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, all at the same time
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 44s
10. Gino Mäder (Sui) Bahrain Victorious, at 45s
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