Tony Gallopin (AG2R La-Mondiale) won stage seven of the Vuelta a España, using the catch of a late attack to launch his own solo break to victory.
Gallopin made contact with escapee Lluís Mas (Caja-Rural) with 2 kilometres remaining following a cagey final 20km over narrow roads.
Not stopping at the rear wheel of Mas, the Frenchman swept past him and continued his pursuit of the line alone, crossing with 5 seconds to spare ahead of world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) who took victory from the bunch sprint, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in third.
Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) maintains the leader’s jersey, whilst Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) dropped from second to sixth overall, having lost 20s to his rivals following a late crash.
How it happened
The hilly stage included two category two climbs, with plenty of undulations along the way.
The later stages of the 185.7km route gave way to twisty, narrow roads which claimed several victims before the final kilometre, which accumulating around 100 metres of climbing.
Seven riders went up the road from the off – they were Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Michael Woods (Education First-Drapac), Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Edward Ravasi (UAE Team Emirates), Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Óscar Rodríguez (Euskadi-Murias).
A crash for Woods left him chasing on and calling for a bike swap – but he was able to make his way back to the sextet ahead.
With less than 20km down, the break had an impressive three minutes on the bunch, stretching to 3-17 after 50km.
The front of the peloton was patrolled by Groupama–FDJ and Bora-Hansgrohe, with Movistar lending a hand to drive a pace which left the seven out front yo-yoing between 2-30 and 3-3o for much of the day.
The following bunch largely allowed the break to keep its gap, until the 50km to go mark. Come 45km left it was down to 2-01, sinking to 1-14 at 30km.
Narrow roads in the last 20km led the bunch to spread out into a wide formation, as more riders than was possible tried to stay up front, the pace increasing until the break had only 15s.
The bunch’s attempts to use the full width of the road drew to its inevitable conclusion with a crash at 17km to go, giving the break some extra seconds.
The seven escapees ceased to work in harmony – Aranbura put in an attack, followed by De Tier and Woods in pursuit.
Eventually it was Woods who broke free – with 15km left he’d accrued 38s – riding strongly despite his earlier tumble. Unfortunately for him the bunch was chasing in earnest – and he was the last of the breakaway riders to be absorbed at 12.5km to go.
With around 10km to go, Richard Carapaz (Movistar) found himself off the edge of the road, whilst Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) came to a stop with a mechanical at a pinch point that made it hard for team cars to reach him.
Mas (Caja-Rural) saw his moment and attacked with about 8km left whilst behind Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) was another rider to fall, with just the assistance of Sergio Henao to pace him back.
Mas’ attack survived until 7.3km left, when he was caught and Jesús Herrada (Confids) decided to try his chances – gaining 40s with 3.9km left.
The Spanish rider sat within sight of the bunch, as it snaked indecisively across the road, before Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) bit the bullet and made the catch, riding past Mas with 2km left.
The chase behind failed to react – leaving the Frenchman a golden opportunity to put the pressure down, reaching the finish line ahead of the bunch sprint which went to Sagan ahead of Movistar’s Valverde.
Vuelta a España stage 7, Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcón (185.7km)
1 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale in 4-18-20
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe at 5s
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
5 Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team
6 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
8 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors, at same time
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb at 7s
10 Sepp Kuss (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo, at same time
General classification after stage 7
1 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ in 26-44-40
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team in 47s
3 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe in 48s
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott in 51s
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale in 59s
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida in 1-11
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team in 10-14
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo in 1-18
10 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors in 1-23