Sam Bennett disqualified after timing it right
While stage nine of the Vuelta a España may have felt like it was taking an age to get from Castrillo del Val to Aguilar de Campoo, the 26-minute wait for Pascal Ackermann to be declared the winner after the bunch had crossed the line was more agonising.
With the UCI apparently not taking their VAR-equivalent video truck to the Vuelta a España, as they look to tighten the pursestrings following the pandemic, the two sprinters were left to wait nearly half an hour before Ackermann stepped up to the podium to accept the win.
For such a global, televised sport, and the Vuelta one of cycling’s premier events, this sort of delay gives an amateurish impression of cycling.
For Bennett, he’d already been interviewed about his victory by the race organisation, even mentioning the fact he’d had to ward off that Trek-Segafredo rider from disrupting his lead-out train, the view inside the peloton being you are well within your rights to defend this from intruders.
The race jury didn’t agree, however, and took what would have been Bennett’s 50th win off him, the Irishman having been so assured in the final few metres that he had time to lift his arms in celebration.
Pascal Ackermann takes first Vuelta victory
Pascal Ackermann had likely imagined taking his first-ever Vuelta stage victory in slightly different circumstances, but a win is a win.
Bora-Hansgrohe took to the front early in the run-in, burning domestiques in the blustery conditions, with Ackermann and Bennett then launching at the same time.
Ackermann couldn’t match his rival, however, and so had to settle for victory by decision rather than brute speed.
Ackermann’s stage victory is light relief for Bora-Hansgrohe from the Sam Bennett revenge tour, though, which is also more formally known as bunch sprints in the 2020 season.
The German team put their eggs in Ackermann’s basket last year, forcing Bennett to look for another team. While the Irishman got his revenge at the Tour, thwarting Peter Sagan in the green jersey competition, he is so far continuing to deny them victory at the Vuelta too.
Hector Saéz’s helmet does its job
Héctor Sáez’s crash early on in the stage didn’t necessarily seem innocuous, but more part and parcel of Grand Tour racing. He was certainly feeling the effects, though, staying on the ground for some time as team staff aided him.
Eventually climbing back on, a member of the Caja Rural team car then put the helmet out of the window to show TV cameras the true impact of the crash, the side of it hanging off, such was the force of the fall.
The team were presumably showing his helmet had taken the thwack from the road, and you have to assume Sáez was well enough to continue, but the incident was another reminder of the innate danger of bike racing.
Recuperation for the GC guys
After a gruelling opening eight days of racing at the 2020 Vuelta, the picture of Dan Martin curled up on the floor at the top of the Alto de Moncalvillo was the proof that the climbers needed a day off.
And that is what stage nine (and tomorrow’s stage 10) gives them before the gradients increase once again this weekend.
For race leader Richard Carapaz, he expected stage nine to be more perilous.
“We knew the final was a bit dangerous. We had seen the finish the first time [through] and we wanted to be in a good position to not take any chances. In the end, it was quite an easy day. We expected it to be more nervous.”
It was more nervous, but only slightly, for Primož Roglič, who required a bike change in the closing kilometres, then briskly chasing back up to the peloton before the final. But we’ll head into the next set of mountain days with the top four on GC all within a minute of each other. Bring it on.
This one really takes the biscuit
A nice touch to the day’s racing courtesy of ITV’s Daniel Friebe, and until the finish line drama this could have been the biggest talking point of stage nine. The usual flat day featuring a breakaway before the bunch dash for the line.
First, it was Héctor Sáez proving he’s one tough cookie before Primož Roglič was caught in a bit of a jam after needing a bike change, the peloton not creaming time off his misfortune, as go the unwritten rules.
Patrick Lefevere’s wafer-thin patience snapping with the UCI after the commissaire’s decision, unlikely to be caught hobnobbing with David Lappartient anytime soon. And if you think I’m being a bit jammy, trying to dodge five cohesive talking points about a bike race, then you’d be exactly right. But that’s seven biscuit puns in three paragraphs so I think I’ve earned my keep, thank you very much.