Nikias Arndt took a much-needed stage eight Vuelta a España victory for Sunweb, springing from the breakaway to sprint to win in torrential conditions.
The German hit out on the finishing straight after Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) ran out of gas in the final kilometre, with Arndt beating Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) into second and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) in third.
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Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) was the best placed breakaway rider in the general classification and takes the red jersey after the peloton finished more than nine minutes down on the escapees. The Frenchman leads Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) by more than two minutes, with Miguel Ángel López sitting in third, three minutes down.
How it happened
After a GC battle on stage seven, and another one likely on Sunday’s stage nine, stage eight presented the perfect opportunity for a breakaway to succeed, wth undulating terrain and a second category climb towards the end of the 166.9km stage.
After his victory on stage five, Ángel Madrazo (Burgos BH) revealed his desire for a Playstation 4 as a prize as his girlfriend apparently didn’t want to buy him one because it was expensive. The current Vuelta king of the mountain was rewarded for playing his part in lighting up the Spanish Grand Tour with his desired games console at the start of the stage.
A large breakaway went up the road after 20km, including a number of strong riders such as Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Zdeněk Štybar, Astana’s Luis Léon Sanchez and former red jersey holder Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida).
The escapees’ advantage creeped up to the two-minute mark with 140km to go, and over the next 40 minutes went up to more than four minutes.
Zdeněk Štybar won the intermediate sprint with 55km to go, the break’s gap drifting out to nearly six minutes, and the Czech looking good to potentially secure yet another win for Deceuninck – Quick-Step in what has been an outstanding 2019 for the Belgian team.
Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) then launched from the breakaway, only gaining around 20 seconds on his former collaborators, but taking the maximum KOM points on offer at the top of the category two Puerto de Monserrat.
The break’s gap was sticking going into the final 20km, however, as the 30-degree heat turned to rain, with the breakaway group starting to splinter on the wet descent and Nicolas Edet riding his way into the red jersey.
Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural -Seguros RGA) attacked with 8.5km remaining, trying to go solo, before Martijn Tusveld (Sunweb) attacked off the front with 3.5km to go and hit the deck on a roundabout.
A kilometre later a tv moto also crashed as the rain turned torrential, with Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ) narrowly avoiding piling into the back of it.
Zdeněk Štybar finally launched his own attack with 2km to go, as David de la Cruz (Ineos) countered, catching the Czech rider.
As riders started their sprint, Nikias Arndt came to the fore, the Sunweb rider powering ahead and holding off Aranburu and Tosh Van der Sande to take a much needed win for his Sunweb team.
The peloton finished more than nine minutes down on the breakaway, the GC teams preferring to take it easy in the treacherous conditions. This had the result of once again unburdening López and his Astana team from the red jersey, with Edet assuming the race lead and Dylan Teuns rising back up to second. López now finds himself the best of the GC riders in third, three minutes down on the Frenchman.
Vuelta a España 2019, stage eight: Valls to Igualada (166.9km)
1. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Sunweb, in 3-50-48
2. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Caja Rural -Seguros RGA
3. Tosh Van der Sande (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
4. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
5. Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida
7. Jonathan Lastra (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA
8. Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ
9. Fernando Barceló (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country – Murias
10. Segio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
General classification after stage eight
1. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, in 32-16-24
2. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 2-21
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 3-01
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 3-07
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 3-17
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 3-28
7. Carl Frederik Hagen (Nor) Lotto-Soudal, at 3-45
8. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 4-59
9. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 5-37
10. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 5-53