Romain Bardet (Team DSM) achieved on stage 14 what he came for in La Vuelta 21: a spectacular stage win after an all-day battle in the mountains. The Frenchman was the strongest climber in the breakaway to take victory atop the unprecedented summit finish of Pico Villuercas, ahead of Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) and Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix).
Bardet also takes the polka-dot jersey. Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar Team) attacked his GC rivals and Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) lost a few seconds but he hangs on to La Roja ahead of Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
La Vuelta 21 heads back into the mountains with almost 3,500m of elevation en route to an unprecedented summit finish at Pico Villuercas.
After 9km of battle, 18 attackers make the break of the day: Clément Champoussin, Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën Team), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), Dani Navarro (Burgos-BH), Aritz Bagües (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Jens Keukeleire (EF Education Nippo), Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Arnaud Démare, Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Andrey Zeits (Team BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Dylan Sunderland (Team Qhubeka NextHash) and Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates).
Bardet dominates the first climbs
They cover 51.3km in the first hour of racing as they try to build a significant lead ahead of the climbing challenges of the day. The gap is up to 10’10’’ at the bottom of the first ascent (km 86.7), the cat-3 Puerto Berzocana (7.7km, 5.2%), followed by the extremely steep cat-1 Alto Collado de Ballesteros (2.8km, 14%). It’s the same mountain as Pico Villuercas, but from a different side, and not all the way to the top.
Bardet leads the break over the top of the two ascents to take the lead of the KOM standings. Prodhomme and Navarro attack their breakaway companions with 49km to go and open a gap of 1’. Holmes and Vanmarcke get back to them with 30km to go, and then Keukeleire, Champoussin, Herrada, Geniets, Tratnik, Zeits and Bardet also bridge the gap.
Bardet and Lopez on the hunt
Prodhomme goes again with 26km to the finish. Vanmarcke and Navarro follow him but they crash 3km further. The chasers get back together ahead of the final ascent: 14.5km, 6.2%. The Frenchman has a lead 1’ at the bottom. Meanwhile, Jumbo-Visma set the pace in the bunch with a gap up to over 14’.
Prodhomme pushes hard at the front, but Zeits and Bardet get back to him with 6km to go. And Bardet immediately counter-attack to make his way to a spectacular solo win, 44’’ ahead of Herrada and Vine. The Frenchman claims his fourth Grand Tour stage win. The first three happened on the Tour de France.
Meanwhile, Movistar Team, Cofidis and Trek-Segafredo up the ante on the final ascent. Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar Team) sets off inside the last 3km.
Steven Kruijswijk and Sepp Kuss control for Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who crosses the line 4’’ behind the Colombian climber, alongside Enric Mas (Movistar Team), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) finishes 16’’ further behind and 4’’ ahead of Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who retains La Roja ahead of another mountain stage. – www.lavuelta.es