A resurgent Romain Bardet took the win from the breakaway atop the summit finish of stage 14 at the 2021 Vuelta a España.
The Frenchman had made his way into the day's move up the road, winning enough KOM points along the way to take the mountain's jersey before his attack on the final climb moved him clear of his rivals, keeping them at bay as he crossed the line first.
Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) finished second, unable to bring back Bardet in the closing kilometres, as Alpecin-Fenix's Jay Vine took a well-deserved third after crashing into his team car earlier in the day. Tom Pidcock then coming through in fourth.
On the final summit climb, second-overall Guillaume Martin and Cofidis tried to put the red jersey of Odd Christian Eiking into difficulty, but ultimately only stole a couple of seconds from him, as Roglič and the GC favourites shaved 20 seconds off of their advantage as the bunch split in the final few hundred metres, Miguel Ángel López, Roglič, Enric Mas, Egan Bernal and Jack Haig finishing ahead of the others.
How it happened
After the neutralised zone the attacks started coming thick and fast, the bunch stretching as riders tried to get into the day’s move, and soon a group of nearly 20 had a gap.
In there was Tom Pidcock, Romain Bardet, Lotto-Soudal’s Matthew Holmes, Arnaud Démare, Jay Vine, Arnaud Démare and Jan Tratnik, a move with real talent in it.
Intermarché were patrolling the peloton, the gap sitting at four minutes, Odd Christian Eiking perhaps enjoying his final day in the red jersey with the summit finish coming up later in the day.
Soon the break’s advantage was six minutes, then eight, getting up towards nine as it ticked under 100km to go, things already looking good for those up front with a desire for stage glory.
The first climb was the third category Puerto Berzocama, Bardet taking maximum points and now only one behind KOM leader Damiano Caruso, Bardet’s former team-mate also picking up one solitary KOM point - a collector’s item if ever there was one.
After the climb, with 70km remaining and the gap at 10 minutes, Jumbo-Visma came to the fore, Holmes then leading the still intact breakaway up the second climb of the day, Puerto Collado de Ballesteros, which peaks at 20 per cent in places.
By the top of the climb, the breakaway was in bits, Bardet going clear in the final 500m and splintering the move, taking the KOM jersey.
Into the final 50km and the break had regrouped at the bottom of the climb, Jumbo-Visma still shepherding behind but happy for those up ahead to contest the day’s glory as they focus on keeping Roglič’s powder dry.
Matthew Holmes then attacked, going clear with Prodhomme and Navarro, before the Brit suffered a very unfortunately-timed puncture, the other two now with 22 seconds on of their former collaborators.
Soon, the pair up front had a minute’s advantage with under 40km to go, Navarro the first through the intermediate sprint.
Behind in the originally breakaway group, there was a really nasty crash for Alpecin-Fenix’s Jay Vine, who’s been mightily impressive this Vuelta, as he was too close to his team car when trying to take a bottle, losing his balance, hitting the side before hitting the deck, thankfully not becoming entangled with his support vehicle. He remained on the ground for some time and looked hurt and shaken up by the incident.
Up ahead, the two leaders were brought back with 25km to the line, Holmes leading a counter-attack, riding with the bit between his teeth after his earlier misfortune, followed by Bardet and Champoussin.
Then, another crash, Navarro and Vanmarcke getting their line wrong around a corner trying to follow Prodhomme and going straight off the road after Navarro rode straight into the Belgian, Prodhomme left alone up front, shaking his head.
Soon, Prodhomme had a minute, the climb to the summit finish only a few kilometres away now. Behind, Jumbo-Visma were still at the head of proceedings, but Movistar lurked ominously.
With 12km to go, now on the climb, Romain Bardet attacked, Vine and Pidcock trying to get back on terms but the break once again blown to pieces on the uphill roads of stage 14.
Those three were then joined by Herrada and Champoussin, the quintet 40 seconds behind Prodhomme, the Frenchman having recovered and looking much more composed on the climb than he had been, extending his advantage slightly as he went under the 10km banner.
Movistar then took over from Jumbo-Visma as the peloton began the climb. The attacks then started coming from the breakaway as Prodhomme failed to falter, Geniets going before Pidcock had a dig, then Holmes once more, Bardet responding.
Vine was still there, his race numbers flapping off his back as he battled the gradient, before Bardet put in a big attack, dropping Pidcock and Holmes, bringing Zeits back, who had gone off in search of the stage, just as the BikeExchange man had bridged across to Prodhomme who had finally succumbed.
Bardet had half a minute with 4km to go, as Vanmarck, battered and bruised, was caught and passed by the Trek-Segafredo-led peloton behind.
Ahead, Vine then left the rest of the chase group behind, Herrada trying to bring him back.
2km to go and Bardet had 45 seconds, Vine and Herrada not making a dent in his progress.
Cofidis then came to the front of the peloton, sensing weakness in Eiking and Guillaume Martin ready to pounce in second place overall.
They didn't manage to break the Intermarché man, however, and instead lost around 20 seconds as the likes of Roglič, Mas, López, Haig and Bernal sprinted clear up the final few hundred uphill metres.
Vuelta a España 2021, stage 14: Don Benito to Pico Villuercas (165.7km)
1. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM, in 4-20-36
2. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 44s
3. Jay Vine (Aus) Alpecin-Fenix, at same time
4. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-12
5. Clément Champoussin (Fra) Ag2r Citroën, at 1-14
6. Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-16
7. Andrey Zeits (Kaz) BikeExchange, at 1-19
8. Kevin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-46
9. Nicolas Prodhomme (Fra) Ag2r Citroën, at 2-04
10. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 2-15
General classification after stage 14
1. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, in 55-03-17
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 54s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-36
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 2-11
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar, at 3-04
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at 3-25
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-21
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadies, at 4-49
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 4-59
10. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-31
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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