Miguel Ángel López handed over the red jersey once again on stage six of the Vuelta a España 2019, as Dylan Teuns moves into the race lead.
The stage was won by Jesús Herrada from Cofidis as he rode into the final kilometre with Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), after the pair made it into the day’s 11-rider breakaway and pulled away from their rivals in the final 3km.
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The peloton were content to let the breakaway fight for the red jersey and the stage on the uphill finish, with López and his Astana team-mates happily ceding the race lead in the process.
How it happened
Stage six of the Vuelta a España 2019 was another tough uphill finish, following on from the first mountain of the race the previous day.
Starting from Mora de Rubielos and heading through mountainous terrain to Ares del Maestrat over 198.9km, the peloton faced four categorised climbs and numerous other uncategorised rises.
The climbing started immediately with the category two Puerto de Nogueruelas (9km at 4.5 per cent), followed quickly by the third cat Puerto de Linares (7.7km at 5.7 per cent).
After that climb, the peloton then gradually descended with a few unmarked lumps along the way into a valley floor at around 130km, before the pivotal final.
The last 40km of the stage featured two major climbs – the Puerto de Culla (4.4km at 5.8 per cent) which led into the final climb of the day, Puerto de Ares, a category three rise over 7.9km and five per cent average gradient, which would decided the winner.
Racing was manic from the flag as teams were determined to get riders in the breakaway, with an escape finally getting away after 60km of hard riding.
An 11-rider break set the tone of the day, including Teuns, Herrada, David de la Cruz (Team Ineos), Tejay Van Garderen (EF Education First), and Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott).
Disaster then struck in the peloton after just over 100km of racing, when a huge crash brought down Rigoberto Urán, Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) and Nicolas Roche, who were all forced to abandon.
The breakaway built up a gap of 4-45 by the slopes of the Puerto de Culla with around 30km to race, as Grmay was the first of the breakers to show his hand, attacking on the climbing and pulling out a dangerous advantage.
More bad news struck Education First on the descent from the Culla, as Van Garderen misjudged a corner and crashed off the road.
With 20km to race, Grmay held a 20-second advantage over the chasers, with the peloton still five minutes back.
Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) attacked the breakaway and bridged across to Grmay with 15km to race, the pair still holding 24 seconds over the chasers.
With the peloton 5-30 back, it was now clear the break would decide the victor once again.
Grmay and Oliveira combined brilliantly to hold their advantage steady inside 10km, but they began to fade inside 5km and were caught after the chasers began attacking each other.
With 3km to race, Dylan Teuns and Jesús Herrada had bridged across to Grmay and Oliveira, quickly dispatching them and pushing on for the finish.
Teuns rode hard on the front as he was in the virtual GC lead, with Herrada sitting in.
Into the final kilometre, Teuns and Herrada held 17 seconds over the chasers with the peloton six minutes behind.
Herrada then attacked Teuns in the final 250m, riding clear and taking an emotional home victory as Teuns was happy to take second place.
Back in the peloton, Astana set the pace on the final slope but were not chasing down the front of the race, accepting the loss of the race lead.
The only move in the bunch came from Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who put in a biting attack near the finish and pulled out a respectable gap, but only finished two seconds ahead of the rest by the line.
Teuns now leads the race by 38 seconds over David de la Cruz in second, with López still the best-placed of the overall favourites in third, a minute down on the new leader.
Vuelta a España 2019, stage six: Mora de Rubielos to Ares del Maestrat (198.9km)
1. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, in 4-24-55
2. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Merida, at 7 seconds
3. Dorian Godon (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 21s
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
5. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 37s
6. Paweł Poljański (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 39s
7. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar, at 45s
8. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 47s
9. David de la Cruz (Esp) Team Ineos, at 50s
10. Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Mitchelton-Scott, at 2-35
General classification after stage six
1. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, in 23-44-00
2. David de la Cruz (Esp) Team Ineos, at 38s
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 1-00
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-14
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 1-23
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar), at 1-28
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 2-17
9. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-18
10. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-47