Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) powered to his second stage win of the 2022 Vuelta a España on Saturday, soloing clear of the breakaway on the challenging Colláu Fancuaya finishing climb to take to take stage 8 in Asturias.
The 26-year-old Australian once again rode through a foggy final few kilometres, this time taking his win with a 43-second gap to second-placed Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and third-placed Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Material).
In the GC group behind, race leader Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl) was an imperious figure on the final ascent, pushing the pace in a group of five in the finale. Enric Mas (Movistar) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) finished on the same time as Evenepoel while Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) were 13 seconds back of the red jersey.
Quite a few other key rivals lost much more time on the day. Among those whose overall hopes took a serious hit on stage 8 were Richard Carapaz and Pavel Sivakov of the Ineos Grenadiers.
After Saturday's climber-friendly showdown, Evenepoel continues to lead the race, with Mas moving up to second at 28 seconds back and Roglič in third at 1:01 down as former red jersey Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), who started the day in second, finished several minutes down.
For Vine, who started this Vuelta without a WorldTour win on his career palmares, the victory was his second in three days. He also took a commanding lead in the mountains classification.
"It's incredible," he said. "I've just got so much more confidence after that first, it's like I've got that monkey off my back. It just felt so much more natural riding in the group today. All the pressure was off me. I had two goals and if one didn't pay off, I always had the KOM jersey to fall back on. A lot more confidence in myself and I really just enjoyed today. It was such a fun day."
The climbers will have another chance to shine, even if the sun continues to be obscured by cloudy skies in Northern Spain, on Sunday's stage 9.
HOW IT HAPPENED
It took some time for the breakaway to form in the early goings of the 153.4km stage from La Pola Llaviana, with multiple attempts brought back before the decisive move went clear. The escape group that did ultimately form out front included some noteworthy names, with Vine, Soler, Taaramäe, Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) among them. They would eventually be joined by Thibaut Pinot, who bridged up with the help of Groupama-FDJ teammate Sebastian Reichenbach. With Bruno Armirail also out front, the French squad had three riders in the break.
After setting a high tempo for the better part of an hour, the peloton finally allowed the gap to grow to roughly four minutes, where it stabilized when QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl upped the pace.
The gap remained there or thereabouts for much of the stage, with Groupama-FDJ pushing the breakaway group as QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl led the pack. As the race went up and over one climb after another, Vine racked up KOM points, while riders began dropping from both groups.
Pedersen's day out front was rewarded at the intermediate sprint with around 25km to go, where he took the maximum points and thus secured a takeover of the green points jersey from Sam Bennett. A few minutes later, he drifted back out of the break.
The pace in both groups was high as the road angled upward in an uncategorized appetizer for the steep finishing climb. At the official start of the first-category finale with just over 10km to go, seven surviving breakaway riders still had a gap of three and a half minutes on the peloton.
Lutsenko put in a surge out front with around six kilometers left to race, but Vine hung with him and then pressed on solo. Behind, Pinot and Rein Taaramäe, shortly thereafter joined by Soler, settled into chase mode.
Back in the bunch, QuickStep set a torrid pace on the steep gradients, and the tempo proved too high for one rider after another, including Carapaz. With his Ineos teammate dropped, Tao Geoghegan Hart put in a big dig, drawing out Evenepoel and a handful of others. Before long, however, Geoghegan Hart faded along with his teammate Pavel Sivakov, leaving Carlos Rodríguez to fly the Ineos flag in the much-reduced GC group with Evenepoel, Roglič, and Mas. Yates worked his way back up to make it a quintet.
Out front, there would be no catching Vine, who cruised to a convincing victory. Behind, Evenepoel, Mas, and Roglič distanced Yates and Rodríguez in the final few hundred meters.
When all was said and done, Vine had the stage and the mountains jersey, Evenepoel continued to wear red, and Pedersen had taken over the green jersey.
"At the start, literally on the first climb, I thought, 'I don't know if we're going to be able to stay away,'" Vine said of the stage.
"They seemed to be chasing us pretty intently, so I decided to definitely target the first couple of KOMs. But then in the valley we had a really good group. The FDJ guys had three in the move and QuickStep were just controlling so from that point on I went, 'OK, if I can get the KOM points without too much of a struggle, I'll go for them,' but the stage was still the main goal."
Evidently, things worked out according to plan for Vine, now a two-time Grand Tour stage winner.
VUELTA A ESPAÑA 2022: STAGE EIGHT RESULTS
1. Jay Vine (Aus) Alpecin-Fenix, in 405-25
2. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 43s
3. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ), at 47s
5. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 29-28-19, at 1-20
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar
7. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma
8. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 1-33
9. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Sébastien Reichenbach (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-42
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE EIGHT
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 29-28-19
2. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 28s
3. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-01
4. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-47
5. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-54
6. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-02
7. Simon Yates (GBr) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 2-05
8. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-44
9. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, 2-51
10. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën 2-59
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