On a rainy afternoon in Cantabria, Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) climbed alone into the mist to take a spectacular victory on stage six of the Vuelta a España.
The Australian held off a two-pronged attack from Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Enric Mas (Movistar) to take the honours atop the Pico Jano.
With this victory, the 26-year-old claimed the first win of his professional career, adding to his title of eSports world champion.
Mark Padun (EF Education-EasyPost) attacked solo from the breakaway with 40km to go, but was caught by Vine on the day's final climb and couldn't match the Australian's pace.
Second on the day was enough for Evenepoel to move into the red jersey, overhauling a deficit of four and a half minutes to previous race leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ). The Belgian now leads the race by 21 seconds.
How it happened
Stage six offered the first major mountain test of this year’s Vuelta a España with a summit finish to Pico Jano, a climb that had never featured before in a professional race.
Starting where they finished off yesterday, the riders left Bilbao on a 181.2km route heading west towards the category-one ascent.
It took almost 20km before the peloton finally allowed a breakaway to wriggle free. Ten riders were part of the move, with Groupama-FDJ, who led the general classification with Molard, unrepresented in the front group.
The breakaway stretched out a gap of five minutes by the time they reached the foot of the day’s first challenge, the category-two Puerto de Alisas. Ruben Fernandez (Cofidis) climbed fastest to the top and soared down into the valley, where wet, puddle-ridden roads awaited.
Back in the peloton, the tricolour jerseys of Groupama-FDJ carried out their duties as race leaders and guided the bunch through the Cantabrian countryside. Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) joined his compatriots on the front, sharing the workload on behalf of his teammate and pre-race favourite Evenepoel.
As Ineos Grenadiers came through to turn up the intensity, the wet roads claimed their first victim. Fredrik Carl Hagen (Israel-Premier Tech) slid out on a sweeping right-hand bend, and looked to be in considerable discomfort as doctors tended to him while he sat beside his bike on the road.
The breakaway’s advantage was halved on the approach to the Collada de Brenes, the first category-one climb of this year’s race, which came 35km from the finish. With Evenepoel in tow, world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) floated to the head of the pack on the lower slopes. Up ahead, the breakaway group fractured as Padun kicked free from his fellow escapees.
Padun ploughed into narrow, crumbly road of the Collada de Brenes to crest the climb one minute ahead of his rivals. A technical descent followed, set to the soundtrack of screeching disc brakes.
With the EF Education-Easypost rider growing out his advantage on the final climb, Evenepoel took up the chase. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Enric Mas (Movistar) sheltered behind the Belgian, but as they entered the final 8km, the three-time Vuelta winner was distanced.
Vine, having caught Padun, found himself alone at the front of the race with 5km remaining. With Evenepoel and Mas hot in pursuit, the Australian stuck to his tempo and held a 20-second gap to the dogged duo all the way to the finish line.
The other big winners on the day were Evenepoel and Mas who both finished over a minute ahead of their GC rivals. The Belgian will wear the red jersey for the first time on stage seven into Cistierna.
Vuelta a España 2022, stage six: Bilbao to Pico Jano (181.2km)
1. Jay Vine (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck, in 4-38
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 15s
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 16s
4. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 55s
5. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
6. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers
8. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Simon Yates (Gbr) BikeExchange-Jayco, all at 1-37
General classification after stage three
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 20-50-07
2. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 21s
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 28s
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-01
5. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-12
6. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-27
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-27
8. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-34
9. Simon Yates (Gbr) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 1-52
10. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-54
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