Drucker’s list of firsts
Jean-Pierre Drucker scored a number of firsts when he crossed the line to win stage 16 of the Vuelta a España on Monday. Not only was he first on the day, of course, but it was his first WorldTour win, first Grand Tour stage win, BMC’s first win in the 2016 Vuelta and the first win for a rider from Luxembourg in this year’s race.
‘Jempy’ is fast emerging as a solid talent in BMC’s ranks, adding this landmark victory to a prologue win in the Tour de Luxembourg earlier this year as well as ninth in E3 Harelbeke – so that’s a sprint stage win, a time trial win and a top 10 in a classic.
That shows impressive versatility in one season, and you have the feeling that there’s more where that came from despite Drucker being something of a late bloomer at 30 years old.
A close shave for Yates
Simon Yates was involved in a crash quite early on in the stage with Orica-BikeExchange team-mate Sam Bewley. Both riders ended up having to visit the medical car for attention, with the Briton appearing to have injured his arm.
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately apparent as the peloton rounded a curve in the road. Probably a simple touch of wheels.
Despite the spill and the subsequent chase back to the peloton, Yates finished safely in the front group at the end of the day to retain his fifth place overall. However, it shows that even at this stage in a three-week race an innocuous spill could end in disaster.
Had the pace been higher – like it was on the previous day’s stage – Yates would have lost time.
Tinkoff in attacking mood
On Sunday, it was Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador that instigated the move that saw both himself and Nairo Quintana put Chris Froome (Sky) under serious pressure and lose valuable time. On Monday, it was Tinkoff’s Daniele Bennati that very nearly spoiled the sprinters’ party with a late attack.
Bennati’s move very nearly lasted until the line, but he was caught within touching distance of the line by the rampaging sprinters.
The Vuelta is Tinkoff’s last ever Grand Tour before the team disbands at the end of the season and the whole squad appear determined to come away with something before they part ways. They keep trying, and we’re not complaining.
A sprint stage, at last
After the previous week’s relentless action, Monday’s stage 16 to Peñíscola was a good old fashioned sprint stage. The break formed up, and was dutifully reeled in with plenty of time for the sprinters’ teams to organise themselves for a bunch sprint. Only Bennati’s late attack (see above) broke the formula.
It used to be the case that the Vuelta would always serve up plenty of flat stages – almost to the point of monotony. Now the rare flat stages are something of a relief, both for the riders and the viewers.
Final phase of the Vuelta is looming
The riders enjoy their second rest day of the Vuelta on Tuesday before action resumes on Wednesday with the final five days. Those five days offer the full gamut of Grand Tour stages: two summit finishes, one individual time trial, one flat stage and the short circuit-based finale in Madrid.
Though Quintana sits in a comfortable-looking pole position with a three minute and 37 second advantage over second-placed Froome, the race is far from over.
One bad day for Quintana, one good day for Froome or Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and the race lead could still easily change hands.
It’s going to be great.