Jesus Herrada of Cofidis has won stage 6 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Spaniard took the stage ahead of Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Merida and Dorian Godon of AG2R La Mondiale, on a day where a number of big names withdrew from the race.
Stage 6, from Mora de Rubielos to Ares del Maestrat, took the riders on another tough stage. 198.9km in length, the stage had two tough early climbs, followed by a long downhill section and then back-to-back category 3 climbs; including the final cat 3 climb to the line. It wouldn’t favour the sprinters, but neither would it be a day for the GC riders. Instead a breakaway were best suited to the stage and they seized their opportunity.
David de la Cruz of Team Ineos, Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Merida, Jesus Herrada of Cofidis, Roberto Gesink of Jumbo-Visma, Tsgabu Grmay of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Tejay van Garderen of EF Education First, Nelson Oliveira of Movistar, Bruno Armirail of Groupama-FDJ, Gianluca Brambilla of Trek-Segafredo, Dorian Godon of AG2R La Mondiale and Pawel Poljanski of BORA-Hansgrohe formed the break that spent the duration of the stage ahead of the peloton. Astana had control of the peloton but significantly they opted not to chase the break; giving the likes of de la Cruz and Teuns the opportunity to take over the red leader’s jersey.
The breakaway gained significant time over the peloton and with 62km to go had an advantage that was in excess of 3 minutes and growing. Significantly though, the big news of the day came in the form of a huge crash that took a number of prominent names out of the race; including EF Education First’s GC campaign. Victor de La Parte of CCC Team and Nicolas Roche of Team Sunweb were the non-EF Education First riders to abandon due to the crash, with Rigoberto Uran and Hugh Carthy both forced out of the race; with Uran suffering a broken collarbone.
It took until the penultimate climb for the race to open up among the breakaway, with Tsgabu Grmay going on the attack. The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider built up a handy lead over the rest of the break that hesitated to chase in earnest. Eventually though attacks began to flow one at a time, with a number of moves trying to go clear. It was eventually a move from Nelson Oliveira that succeeded in going clear, with the Portuguese rider joining the Ethiopian and staying with him out in front of the break with a 33 second advantage over the rest of the break that stayed together in their pursuit of of the two leaders.
The chase had a major fright though as on the descent before the final climb Tejay van Garderen came off the road and lay almost motionless on a rocky section of roadside. The American was able to finish the stage, but he did so as the very last finisher of the stage; having been on the front as a stage contender for the bulk of the day.
Back in the peloton towards the end of the stage Mitchelton-SCOTT, Jumbo-Visma, Astana were all on the front of the peloton along with AG2R La Mondiale and Team Sunweb but there was no real intent from the peloton , although it was pleasing to see Dion Smith and Sam Bewley both on the front of matters. With less than 6km to go the gap had extended to 6 minutes and still Oliveira and Grmay were out in front of the rest of the break; with a lead of over 40 seconds.
Gradually that lead started to drop as behind them Gianluca Brambilla led the way for the chasers along with David de la Cruz, but it was a move from Dylan Teuns and Jesus Herrada that finally cracked the chase group and also haemorrhaged time on the breakaway; catching de la Cruz out. It was between Teuns and de la Cruz to decide where the red jersey would go at the end of the stage, but Teuns had taken his chance superbly as he and Herrada caught and passed Grmay and with 3km to go also had Oliveira caught.
Teuns and Herrada quickly dropped Oliveira, with Herrada now careful not to make the same mistake as his brother yesterday. This time Herrada was sure to force Teuns to set the pace; which the Belgian was all too willing to do with the allure of a potential red jersey proving a powerful motivator. Through 1km to go the duo had a 17 second lead over the nearest chasers who themselves were hardly united. Godon and Gesink had managed to drop the rest of the move and go on the hunt for Herrada and Teuns; but they’d run out of road.
Finally Herrada accelerated and his breakaway companion had no response. Herrada did what his brother couldn’t the day before; securing the stage win ahead of the Belgian who now watched the clock. He needed 11 seconds over David de la Cruz to guarantee that he would be the new red jersey and he made sure of that as eventually de la Cruz crossed the line 9th and 43 seconds back from Teuns. Godon outsprinted Gesink for third place.
Back down the road Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates launched an attack that eventually gained him just 2 seconds over the rest of the GC field that gradually whittled down to a group of around 20 riders. George Bennett was in that group, crossing the line ahead of Fabio Aru of UAE Team Emirates.