Jasper Philipsen takes his first Grand Tour stage victory
Stage 15 of the Vuelta a España came down to a chaotic sprint for the line on a slight uphill finish, as pure sprinters fought with lighter riders at the line.
The dash for the line came down a battle between three riders as Jasper Philipsen, Pascal Ackermann and Jannik Steimle all fought for victory.
But it was 22-year-old Philipsen who took the glory with a huge effort in tough conditions, narrowly holding off Bora-Hansgrohe’s Ackermann.
The victory is a major turning point for UAE Team Emirates rider Philipsen, as it’s his first Grand Tour victory and by far the biggest win of his career, which he adds to wins in the BinckBank Tour, the Tour du Limousin, the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Utah.
Philipsen is on the move next season as he will be joining Mathieu van der Poel’s ProTeam Alpecin-Fenix, but expect to see the Belgian back in the WorldTour in the future.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step play multiple cards but miss out
Stage hunters Deceuninck – Quick-Step were clearly motivated on day 15 of the Vuelta, perhaps inspired by the fact they only have one stage win in this race and the season is just a few days from its conclusion.
Before the stage the team had intended to control the breakaway for their sprinter Sam Bennett, but the testing parcours and brutal weather conditions proved a step too far for the Irishman.
Mattia Cattaneo was the next to step up for the Belgian squad as he attacked solo from the breakaway with 30km to race and pulled out a decent gap on his rivals.
But eventually Cattaneo was wound in by the Bora-Hansgrohe-led peloton to set up the bunch gallop.
In true Deceuninck fashion the team weren’t phased by losing their sprinter as Michael Mørkøv carried German Jannik Steimle to the line to keep the blue and white in with a shot.
Still it wasn’t to be however, as Steimle sprinted to a respectable third place but just couldn’t match Philipsen and Ackermann.
Deceuninck have been uncharacteristically quiet on stage wins both at the Giro, where João Almeida led the GC for much of the race, and now at the Vuelta.
With opportunities running out, it might be a quiet finish to the season, unless Bennett can score a big one in Madrid on stage 18.
Huge result for Britain’s Fred Wright
It’s been another fantastic year for Brit’s in Grand Tours and Fred Wright just added his name to the list of achievers.
The 21-year-old is riding his first full season at WorldTour level with Bahrain-McLaren and the Vuelta is his first Grand Tour.
Despite the awful conditions throughout the day, Wright thrived and powered his way to a fourth-place finish on the stage, a great result and a promising sign for this developing talent.
It looks like training in Manchester prepares you perfectly well for a wet day in Spain.
Cat and mouse between the peloton and breakaway once again
The unpredictable stages continue at the 2020 Vuelta a España as the peloton and the breakaway fought it out once again.
While the bunch kept the escape on a tight leash thanks to the efforts of Bora-Hansgrohe who wanted the sprint, the day’s breakaway was more than symbolic as proved by Matteo Cattaneo and his solo effort.
But after the breakaway’s success on stage 14, day 15 was a chance for the sprinters to shine, although the chaotic finish proved just as unpredictable as the rest of the stage, with riders spread across the road.
That is likely to be the last chance for a bunch sprint before the final stage, with stage 16 favouring the breakaway while 17 looks to be the final GC day.
A brutal day late into the Vuelta
The conditions for stage 15 of the Vuelta were absolutely brutal, particularly after the tough racing we’ve seen up until this point.
At 230km, day 15 was the longest of this year’s Spanish Grand Tour and the conditions will have made it feel even longer, as riders were battered by rains and mist limited visibility in the closing kilometres.
The Giro d’Italia peloton protested very similar conditions in the final week last month, which resulted in the stage being shortened, but there were no such complaints in Spain.
We also saw a few abandonments, most notably Britain’s Harry Tanfield who just a few days ago thought he was going to make it through his debut Grand Tour.
But after struggling with an injury, it wasn’t to be for the Ag2r rider who stepped off after around 80km.