Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) took victory on stage 11 of the Vuelta a España, attacking from the day’s main break to eventually win solo.
De Marchi had gone clear on the final classified climb of the day with Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin), but was able to drop the Colombian on an unclassified ascent with around 4.3km to go.
There was no way back to the Italian then for Restrepo, with De Marchi able to cruise home as the day’s winner after a fast and frantic start along the hilly course.
Simon Yates retained the red jersey after arriving among the other overall favourites, but had to stick with some late attacks from the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the final kilometre.
How it happened
The riders of the Vuelta started the day with the race’s longest stage in front of them at 207.8km. While the race featured four categorised climbs along the way, there was no real hint of flat road anywhere along the profile, which could suit a breakaway attempt.
Clearly the riders had a breakaway in mind as well, with a chaotic opening two hours that saw attack after attack from various riders including the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
The pace was so high that even riders like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) were briefly dropped on one of the early climbs, with the peloton averaging 49kmh in the first hour and 48kmh in the second hour.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) was the GC contender to get caught out early on, suffering a mechanical and having to fight for a long period to get back to the peloton after dropping to a minute down.
With just over 100km to go, the peloton finally gave in and let a big group of riders get up the road, with Alessandro De Marchi, Nicolas Roche, Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team), Thibaut Pinot, Léo Vincent (Groupama-FDJ) Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Astana), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data), Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac), Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha Alpecin), Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias) making up the group.
Despite the presence of Pinot, just 2-33 down on race leader Simon Yates at the start of the day, the break was allowed to gain over 4-30 advantage by Mitchelton-Scott.
Into the final 70km, the break still had around four minutes, but their cohesion was on the wane as riders started to slip off the front, with Pinot then attacking.
He was joined by Dylan Teuns, with riders constantly attacking to try and bridge to the Frenchman out front. With 57km to go, it was back together and still led by four minutes, with Pinot’s team-mate Léo Vincent driving on the front in service of his leader.
Gap down to under three minutes, Mollema attacked with 48.5km to go, but his move didn’t last long with Pinot, Haig, and Majka eventually making it across and the remaining breakers were all together again with 33km to go, though Vincent had lost contact after his efforts for Pinot. They still held an advantage of three minutes heading towards the final 30km.
The leaders hit the final classified climb with around 27km to go, the Alto de Mirador de Cabezoas, an 8.8km climb at 4.3 per cent average.
The climb instigated attacks from the breakaway group, with Restrepo, De Marchi and Roche who getting away. De Marchi then went clear with around 5.5km to go on the climb, 23.5km to go to the finish, establishing a gap of around 45 seconds.
Restrepo paced the climb well though, and was able to get back to De Marchi around 500m from the summit, and the two worked together as they took on the final 18km with around 30 seconds back to the Pinot group.
As they reached the final 10km, the leading pair had around 50 seconds on the Pinot group. That chasing group had dropped to around two minutes on the peloton, meaning Simon Yates looked set to retain his overall lead.
With Restrepo the best sprinter of the leading pair De Marchi tried to to test the Colombian on an unclassified climb with around 5km to go but couldn’t shake him.
700m later though he was able to get a gap, while behind in the peloton, Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) attacked, stretching out the remaining riders.
De Marchi was able to put a 24 second gap into Restrepo and it was clear the Italian would hold on for a hard earned solo victory.
Pinot then came in at 1-50 down, but could only take around 13 seconds on the favourites group who arrived together despite attacks from Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Lopez in the final kilometre.
Vuelta a España 2018, stage 11: Mombuey – Ribeira Sacra. Luintra (207.8km)
1 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team, in 4-52-38
2 Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin, at 28s
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 59s
4 Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 1-24
5 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team, at 1-45
6 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 1-46
7 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team, at 1-48
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 1-50
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
Overall classification after stage 11
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 45-57-40
2 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1s
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 14s
4 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 17s
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 24s
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
7 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 27s
8 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 32s
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, 43s
10 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, 47s