Valerio Conti claimed his first grand tour stage win on stage 13 of the Vuelta a España as he soloed across the finish line, more than 30 minutes ahead of the peloton.
Conti formed part of an early break of twelve riders, and attacked with some 20 kilometres to go to leave the rest behind. Second place went to Danilo Wyss, 55 seconds behind Conti, with Sergey Lagutin in third. Alejandro Valverde led home the peloton, which had taken it easy, their eyes fixed on a brutal mountain stage on Saturday.
With the Pyrenees looming on the horizon, the 213 kilometre stage 13 was well suited to a break, and riders started attacking early on to try and establish a race-winning move. Michael Gogl (Tinkoff) was the first rider who built a successful gap on the peloton, and a number of riders bridged the gap to him to form what looked to be the break of the day.
Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Romain Cardis (Direct Energie), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Yves Lampaert (Etixx-QuickStep), Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Team Giant-Alpecin), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), and Danilo Wyss (BMC) were the riders to join Gogl, representing a good balance of teams.
However, there were a couple of teams that missed out, including FDJ and Trek-Segafredo, and there was an initial attempt to bring the move back, but with most teams represented the break of the day was set, and they soon stretched out their lead to a respectable five minutes. However, the lead would continue to grow, and at around the 140 kilometres to go mark it was out beyond 15 minutes.
With a number of climbs out on the route, Lagutin took a particular interest, and he led the group over all of the early climbs. In doing so, he collected enough points to put himself into the King of the Mountain jersey. Although the break worked together well, it was inevitable that with a massive gap established their thoughts would soon turn from cooperation to winning, and the attacks started.
Gogl and Wallays were the first two to get a significant lead, but they were brought back by the rest of the break, before Wyss made a move, taking Conti, Gogl, Laengen, Lagutin, and Lampaert with him. However, Conti was not content, and attacked the break, riding off on his own. His companions hesitated briefly, and he was gone. They did start cooperating, but could not close the gap, with Conti taking a solo win, 55 seconds ahead of his erstwhile break companions Wyss, Lagutin, Gogl, Laengen, and Lampaert, with the rest of the break trailing in behind them.
The peloton had apparently enjoyed their day off as they cruised across the line almost 34 minutes behind the stage winner, with all the major contenders saving their legs for an assault on the Pyrenees. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished safely in the peloton, as did Sam Bewley (Orica-Bike Exchange).
There were no changes at the top of the overall classification, with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retaining his 54 second lead over Chris Froome (Sky) in second, with Quintana’s team mate Alejandro Valverde in third, a further 11 seconds back. Bennett is currently in 18th place, 7:53 off the race lead.