Sam Bennett shows his class
Even before the crash in the final kilometre, which we’ll get to, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) was looking good to take his second stage win of this year’s Vuelta.
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Bora-Hansgrohe had kept the Irishman safe and well-positioned at the front of the peloton, and when he was left in the small selection with 800m to go his victory was almost nailed on.
However, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) then took his chance amidst all the confusion and attacked from 400m on the incline up to the finish line.
Bennett, however, showed his class, and stuck to Max Richeze’s wheel as the Deceuninck – Quick-Step lead-out man led the wrong rider back up to the front of the race before the Irishman easily passed both of them to take the win.
Bennett said in his post-race interview that this 13th win of the season not only helped him reach his target for the year, but that he didn’t celebrate as he only came to the front of the peloton with 5km to go and wasn’t sure if there were still breakaway riders up ahead.
The method of victory on stage 14 will please Bennett, who showed his versatility, with many more opportunities for stage wins coming up in the final week of the Vuelta.
GC riders escape unscathed after big crash in final 1km…
After what had been a fairly ordinary flat stage, it all descended into chaos in the final kilometre in the blink of an eye, as is often the case at Grand Tours.
As the peloton passed under the flamme rouge, a touch of wheels brought down half the peloton in a massive crash. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) went over his handlebars while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was also brought down. Race leader Primož Roglič unclipped and fell over as a result of the pandemonium ahead but wasn’t directly involved. Luckily, all riders with hopes of overall classification success seemed to have escaped unscathed ahead of tomorrow’s big day in the mountains, which should see sparks fly.
…but other riders aren’t so lucky
Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) had been hoping to contest the bunch sprint, but after being involved in the crash was loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital with possible fractures.
Ineos’ Owain Doull also looked beaten up, having come down heavy in the crash, although his team are yet to provide an update, while Katusha-Alpecin’s Willie Smit required stitches in the ambulance after the stage.
For a lot of riders, the extent of their injuries may not present themselves until after a night of rest, or road rash sticking to the sheets and keeping them awake. Should they manage to get out of bed, they might decide up one of the four first category climbs on stage 15 that they’ve had enough. A big crash so far into a Grand Tour can make many riders re-evaluate their jaunt around Spain and will likely see more simply target getting to the finish line in Madrid.
Ángel Madrazo faltering could hand polka dot jersey to Pogačar
Ángel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) holds the King of the Mountains classification by just two points over Ag2r La Mondiale’s Geoffrey Bouchard. However, of more concern is the third place rider who trails by only seven points, Tadej Pogačar.
The Spaniard Madrazo will have to fight to the bitter end to claim the polka dot jersey of his home Grand Tour, and being dropped with 33km to go on stage 14 at the start of the sole third category climb of the day sparks cause for concern.
If Pogačar continues the fine form he’s shown so far at his first ever Grand Tour, he could see himself coming away with both the white and polka dot jerseys, and if Roglič can maintain his race lead that would see Slovenia claim an unprecedented three classifications.
Another big day in the mountains coming up
Tomorrow the GC race continues with four first category climbs, the last of which provides another summit finish at this year’s Vuelta. Roglič leads Valverde by 2-25, with Pogačar now in third, three minutes down. Unless Roglič begins to show weakness the other GC riders will start to fight between themselves for podium spots.
This will allow us to watch Pogačar tested to his limit and see just what the 20-year-old is capable of, but hopefully the likes of Quintana and López can re-find their form and launch long-range attacks to light up the race in the hopes of taking the red jersey and give us a thrilling final week to the 2019 Vuelta.