Talking points from another hectic day at the Vuelta
Bouhanni makes headlines for positive reasons
These days, whenever Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) is in the news, it’s usually for the wrong reasons – whether falling out with team management, reproached for violent conduct or disqualified for dangerous sprinting, the Frenchman has become notorious for controversy while his sprinting success has dried up.
As recently as yesterday, in fact, he was docked 30 seconds, either for an illegal feed if you believe Bouhanni and his team, or for punching his directeur sportif if you believe a report from AS.
Either way, Bouhanni had his revenge today with an explosive sprint in which he got the better of Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).
The win has been a long time coming, with a whole four years having passed since his last victory at Grand Tour level, at the 2014 Vuelta. During that time it had seemed doubtful that we’d ever see the 28-year old at his best at the highest level, with him often being prevented from even appearing at Grand Tours for various reasons.
Here’s hoping he can stay out of trouble and remind everyone of his considerable talent.
Splits in the peloton
A mixture of a big crash in the middle of the peloton and strong winds caused major splits in the peloton, with two clear losers among the GC favourites – Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).
Pinot will likely be frustrated with his poor positioning in the peloton. The crash did not occur right at the front of the peloton, but behind where the big name riders were jostling for position, explaining how, despite the peloton being reduced to just 50 riders by the finish line, all of the other overall contenders were present.
Kelderman can count himself more unlucky. He suffered a puncture at the worse moment, thus finding himself in a trailing group through no fault of his own.
Both riders finished in the same group, that came in 1-44 after the lead group. It could have been worse were it not for a committed chase from their teammates, but that’s a large portion of time to make-up this early in the race.
Quick-Step Floors get it wrong
When Elia Viviani’s Italian national champion’s jersey was spotted having made the split, he looked like the nailed-on favourite for victory.
Three days ago, Viviani looked in imperious form, sprinting ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to seal a win that never looked in doubt.
However, today he and his ever reliable Quick-Step Floors team-mates weren’t quite as in sync as usual, and he was left isolated from his lead-out men come the sprint.
The Italian still had the legs to surge up to finish third, but was left with too much ground to make-up to match Bouhanni and van Poppel.
The result may come as a shock to a Quick-Step Floors team that are so accustomed to perfection in bunch sprints. Expect them to be hungrier than ever to triumph in the next.
Richie Porte bounces back
Given his travails during the Vuelta so far, in which ongoing problems will illness saw him lose over 40 minutes in just the first four days, it’s perhaps a surprise that Richie Porte (BMC) has made it this far into the race.
Yet more surprising, however, was the sight of him riding in today’s three man breakaway. Despite the flat parcours all but guaranteeing a bunch sprint, Porte decided to try his luck in a breakaway alongside the usual suspects of pro-continental riders (Cofidis’ Luis Angel Mate and Burgos-BH’s Jorge Cubero Galvez.
As one of the world’ best riders, he was an incongruous presence in the kind of doomed breakaway usually reserved for small names seeking to please the sponsors with time on TV, but Porte will have had his reasons. Having signed a contract to ride for Trek-Segafredo next season, some have questioned his motivation to continue riding hard during his final months at BMC – what better way to quash such doubts than to make the effort to get into a breakaway?
If his efforts today are anything to go by, we can expect Porte to continue attack later in the Vuelta – and probably on hillier stages, where he will stand a far better chance of also winning a stage.
Rudy Molard enjoys day in red – despite time penalty
For a relatively small-name rider like Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), it doesn’t get much better than wearing the leader’s jersey at a Grand Tour.
His day got off to an acrimonious start, however, when it was announced that he had been docked 20 seconds for taking an illegal feed inside the final 20km of yesterday’s stage.
Fortunately, his overall lead was substantial enough for it to be reduced rather than eradicated completely – from 1-01 to 41 seconds.
As a whole, the team will be upset at having seen Pinot lose so much time. But, with Molard having made the split, he’ll enjoy another day in the red jersey tomorrow.