Michael Woods came out on top to take stage seven of the Vuelta a España 2020 out of a select group which was peppered with attacks in the closing kilometres.
Woods (EF Pro Cycling) was followed by Omar Fraile (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who completed the podium just four seconds back on the man from Canada.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) holds onto the leaders red jersey by 18 seconds of British rider, Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling).
How it happened
The race started in Vitoria-Gasteiz before taking on a tricky route that took on a climb twice on the 159.7km course, the 7.8km Puerto de Orduña which averages 7.7 per cent and maxes out at 14 per cent before finishing in Villanueva de Valdegovía.
A break of 17 riders went away early on, including Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Alex Aranburu (Astana) and Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) with a maximum gap of two minutes before another huge group of chasers behind formed.
The chasers came across to make a group of 40 riders including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) and Woods.
The peloton was being controlled throughout the day by Ineos Grenadiers for the overall leader, Carapaz, keeping the time gap very low at around 1-40 when they went over the top of the first ascent of the climb.
In the break, Kuss, G. Martin, Peters and Robert Power (Team Sunweb) went away before the top where Kuss took the points and the virtual lead in the mountains classification, before they were swiftly brought back and the rain started to fall with 89km to go.
Behind, the peloton was being controlled by Cameron Wurf, Michał Gołas and Chris Froome of Ineos Grenadiers, holding the time gap and stretching out the peloton into one long line.
With 55km to go, Dorian Godon (Ag2r La Mondiale), Stan Dewulf (Lotto-Soudal) and Valverde attacked out of the front group taking 31 seconds on the chasers.
Wellens kicked out of the chase group with George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) and Magnus Cort (EF Pro Cycling), this caused the gaps to plummet with the chasers getting to six seconds from the leaders before they got caught.
This led to Godon going on a solo attack as they descended down to Orduña before taking on the Puerto de Orduña. Valverde and Dewulf were brought back by the chasers.
Back in the peloton, the group was being split to bits with Israel Start-Up Nation riding hard on the front for Dan Martin before the pace slackened and Ineos took back control as they turned onto the final climb.
A vicious head wind whipped up and started to trouble the hoardings on the side of the road as they got onto the harder slopes of the climb as Movistar worked in the chase group for Valverde.
Kuss kicked on out of the break with 22km to go with Godon brought back, that group didn’t work then as Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked, Valverde, Kuss and Woods followed.
The rest of the break stayed with them for a moment before Woods pushed on solo on the steepest part of the climb with 22km to go.
Nans Peters was the next man to try and bridge across to Woods before Valverde kicked yet again, leaving Bennett, Kuss, Formolo and the rest behind with 20km to go.
Omar Fraile (Astana) attacked hard with Guillaume Martin across to Valverde and Peters as they still looked to try and catch Woods who was 15 seconds up the road with 19km to go.
Woods went over the top on his own but the four chasers closed in on him rapidly and joined Woods with 15km to go with 1-45 back to the peloton but just 18 seconds to the chasers.
The leaders started to pepper each other with attacks with 7km to go and it continued until 5km to go where Valverde got a small gap before Peters dragged the former world champion back yet again.
It was Fraile who kicked hard with 2.5km to go with Woods straight onto his wheel but Valverde dragged himself along with Martin and Peters back to the lead.
Woods then went solo again as they went into the final kilometre, behind Fraile hit out to try and bridge but the Spaniard was not able to catch him and he took victory in Villanueva de Valdegovía.
Carapaz keeps his 18 second lead of Carthy as they head to the next major mountain top finish on stage eight.
Vuelta a España 2020, stage seven: Vitoria-Gasteiz to Villanueva de Valdegovía (159.7km)
1. Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling, in 3-48-16
2. Omar Fraile (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 4 seconds
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at same time
4. Nans Peters (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 8s
5. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at same time
6. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 13s
7. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana Pro Team
8. Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time.
General classification after stage seven
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, in 28-23-51
2. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling, at 18 seconds
3. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 20s
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 30s
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-07
6. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-30
7. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-42
8. Esteban Cháves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, 2-02
9. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 2-03
10. George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-39.
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