The crosswind finally reared its head as the race was ripped to pieces in the final 40km, but it wasn’t as decisive as the final climb up to the Alto de la Montaña de Cullera. It was Ineos Grenadiers who took up the chase of the break who hit the final climb with a slim advantage.
Ineos Grenadiers did a lot of work on the early slopes but none of their key riders were up to the challenge as they all lost time to Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) with Cort (EF Education-Nippo) narrowly holding on to take the win as the defending champion closed in on him.
Roglič now leads the race by 25 seconds over Spain's Enric Mas (Movistar) in second place.
How it happened
Stage six of the Vuelta a España started in Requena with the race almost heading entirely downhill for the first half of the stage before a pan-flat second half along the coast. That was until the savage 2km kick up to the finish line on the Alto de la Montaña de Cullera after 158.3km.
After a very big fight to get into the breakaway and a crash that saw numerous riders go down, a five-man group got away.
The riders in the break included Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Qhubeka-NextHash), with Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation) trying to bridge across from the peloton.
Unfortunately though for Niv, the gap continued to stretch out with the Israeli rider quickly losing three minutes before he backed into the peloton who were 4-31 down with 100km to go.
Suddenly, Team BikeExchange decided to absolutely hammer the pace with 83km to go as the break’s gap headed up to eight minutes.
The speed in the bunch continued with other teams joining BikeExchange as the gap dropped down to three minutes up to the breakaway. Eventually, with 48km to go and after a few individuals had crashed, the pace dropped as they began thinking about the wind, gravel, and the final climb to come.
Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma took control of the pacing with 36km to go with the gap to the break sat at 3-10. Bora-Hansgrohe and Movistar also joined the push too as the nerves started to pick up.
The crosswinds began to cause carnage with Ineos, Alpecin-Fenix, Jumbo-Visma, and Movistar obliterating the peloton as the echelons began to appear with 33km to go. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and race leader Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) both got caught out.
Fortunately for Yates he got back on with a few other riders but Elissonde was struggling to return to the front group with his team-mates. The wind turned into a headwind that slowed bunch down with 30km to go. But Movistar continued to set an unpleasant pace that made it hard for the chasers, though Elissonde and co did eventually make it back in.
Up the road, the break was holding two minutes with 22km to go but the pace started to rise yet again back in the peloton as Movistar continued to set up their leaders.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) was right at the back of the peloton, losing contact even before the second round of crosswinds along with the German champion Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) with 14km to go.
The crosswinds returned with Deceuninck - Quick-Step joining the push this time with 12km to go, knocking off a minute on the break's advantage. The acceleration stretched the peloton right out but it wasn’t as brutal as the first passage through the crosswind.
The following headwind meant the peloton slowed up again and the break could hold onto their minute advantage, but Carthy was still struggling to get back in with his team-mates as Movistar returned to the front again with 8km to go. Carthy did eventually make it back to the peloton before the final climb.
Ineos took over with 3km to go with Dylan van Baarle and Richard Carapaz guiding Egan Bernal and Adam Yates to the base of the climb with the gap to the break beginning to plummet as they hit the final ascent to the finish line.
Jhonatan Narváez did a full-tilt lead-out for Bernal as Carapaz was the next to take it up, splitting the peloton to pieces with Yates among those unable to follow the speed set by his team-mates.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) tried a move with Bernal and Enric Mas (Movistar) following, as Cort and Lindeman held onto a slender gap from the break. Yates and a few other GC men made it back in as they settled into the climb.
Up front, Cort dropped Lindeman to go solo. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) came up to the front as Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) attacked but Matthews and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) countered it.
Roglič then came round to kick for the line with the Slovenian getting up to the back wheel of Cort, but the Danish sprinter managed to hold on and narrowly take the win as Roglič going back into the overall lead having dropped Elissonde on the final climb.
The Vuelta a España continues with stage seven on Friday; the first massive day in the mountains with a 152km route from Gandía to Balcón de Alicante containing six categorised climbs.
Vuelta a España 2021, stage six: Requena to Alto de la Montaña de Cullera after (158.3km)
1. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo, in 3-30-53
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Andrea Bagioli (Ita) Deceuninc - Quick-Step, at 2s
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 4s
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at same time
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange, at 6s
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8s
8. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at same time
9. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar Team, at 9s
10. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16s
General classification after stage six
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma, in 21-04-49
2. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 25s
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar Team, at 36s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 41s
5. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
6. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 53s
7. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 58s
8. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën Team, at 1-04
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-12
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Qhubeka-NextHash, at 1-17
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