Quick-Step seal sixth stage victory
The parcours of this Vuelta hasn’t exactly been kind to the sprinters, and whatever scraps they have been thrown have been gobbled up by Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step). Today was the most sprinter-friendly stage of the race, and was won, inevitably, by the Italian, who leaves the race with four stage victories.
The camaraderie and well-oiled team work that has helped bring Quick-Step Floors so much success at this Vuelta was exemplified by a perfect lead-out for Trentin, who was left with a relatively straightforward job to finish off having been released right at the front of the bunch.
Their lead-out train took to the front with a few kilometres to go and did not relinquish their position there, despite the efforts of other teams. Among the riders to set such a searing pace were Yves Lampaert and Julian Alaphilippe, themselves stage winners earlier in the race, and more than happy to work in service of other riders in the team.
The win was Quick-Step Floors’s sixth of the Vuelta and 16th of the season, more than twice as much as any other team managed to muster. Team Sky may be the GC masters, but no team can match the Belgian outfit for its stage winning success.
Froome win the points classification
Is there anything Chris Froome (Sky) can’t do? As if winning a historic Tour/Vuelta double wasn’t enough, the Briton even got involved in the sprints today to also seal victory in the points classification.
Froome signalled his intent early in the day when he took on the intermediate sprint, although Quick-Step Floors combated the threat by guiding Trentin to the maximum points.
When Trentin crossed the finish line in first place, he must have thought the green jersey was in the bag too. Yet somehow Froome had succeeded in manoeuvring himself through the madness of lead up to the sprint to finish 11th – enough to seal the jersey by a mere two points.
It was a commendable effort from Froome to both make a race of and win a situation others would have been happy not to bother with, and a revealing insight into his hunger to accumulate as much success as possible.
Vuelta’s jersey competitions need a rethink
Not to take anything away from Froome’s competitiveness today, but Trentin had a point when he dismissed as a ‘joke’ the fact he managed to win four stages without also sealing the points jersey.
Trentin did everything usually required for a rider to win a Grand Tour points classification – he dominated the bunch sprints, mopped up points in the intermediate sprints, and excelled in trickier terrain too.
Yet the considerable imbalance between breakaway stages and flat stages meant even that wasn’t enough to win the competition.
Along with the fact that six of the top seven in the points classification were made up of the race’s best climbers, while the King of the Mountains was won by a rider (Cannondale-Drapac’s Davide Villella) didn’t feature on any of the race’s major summits, this suggests that the Vuelta organisers need to have a rethink about how it scores its secondary competitions.
A few more sprint stages would redress the balance in the points classification, and could be a smart move to increase the number of points awarded on these stages in relation to those in hillier terrain.
Similarly, following the Tour’s lead and doubling the number of points earned for the final climb could also ensure that the very best climbers are appropriately rewarded for their efforts on the toughest and most hotly contested ascents.
Contador enjoys send-off
Alberto Contador’s (Trek-Segafredo) farewell was always going to be an emotional affair, and indeed his fans flocked to the roadside to see their hero in action one last time.
The seven-time Grand Tour winner awarded with the overall combativity award, and was also allowed a lap of honour of the Madrid circuit, during which he held a Spanish flag to wave as he passed the many cheering spectators.
Despite all the celebrations, a split in the bunch actually meant Contador lost enough time to slip from fourth to fifth on the final overall classification.
But he didn’t seem at all bothered by this, a fact that neatly exemplifies his almost blasé attitude to the GC throughout the race in favour of enjoying and expressing himself on the bike while playing the entertainer.
Jolien D’Hoore wins Madrid Challenge
Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle-High5) was another predictable winner in Madrid today, winning the Madrid Challenge for the second successive year.
Despite the efforts of many to attack, a bunch sprint seemed inevitable on the circuit-based event, and when it came to pass only Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) could come close to D’Hoore once she got into her stride with a burst to the line.
Now three editions old, the race has been a success in terms of showcasing women’s cycling on a more exposed scale than normal, but there’s only so much excitement a criterium-style race like this can generate.
Even with its WorldTour status, the top ranked riders in that competition like Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) opted not to turn up for a race the offered them so little in terms of parcours.
Looking ahead to the future, it would be good to see the organisers to follow the Tour de France’s La Course in expanding the event to include more stages