Shane Archbold has well and truly been in the thick of one of the most intense and climbing-dominated Vuelta a Espana races in recent memory. But the fast-man has been extremely busy whether in sprint stages or out; even taking on a bit of ‘soccer’ mid-stage!

Over the weekend we had the privilege of catching up with BORA-Hansgrohe’s Shane Archbold on the run in to a rare opportunity to lead out friend and teammate Sam Bennett in a Vuelta that has been largely dominated by climbing stages.  ‘Novie’ had just completed the climb of Los Machucos in stage 13 and was relishing the opportunity to get busy doing what he does best the following day; which he duly did in spite of a late mass pile-up that he got held up by.

For anyone watching the Vuelta a Espana who has never been to Spain, the climbs look like something not seen in either Italy, France or Belgium; the three other premier cycling hotspots.  We put the question to Shane as to whether Vuelta climbs – like Los Machucos – were just something else; and he assured us they certainly were.

Shane Archbold on course during his race against the clock, photo Sirotti

“They are a different ball game, but anything more than a flat road is horrible when you’re pushing 80kg around all day and the average rider is 67kg in this Vuelta,” Shane explained.  “Spain in general is knowing for steeper climbs, but Los Machucos is something else, the only similarity in New Zealand is the straight and bend of Bluff Hill, but it goes for 6km.”

It’s been a funny Vuelta in many ways for the Sam-Shane combination, but also for the wider sprinting superstars present; more for the lack of opportunities to show their mettle, but their need to go deep on occasion to survive and make time cuts.  Chances have been few and far between, which opens up a rare ability in the middle of a grand tour to have some fun with things; like ‘saving a penalty’ in one of Spain’s biggest football stadiums!

“As hard as the Vuelta is and there aren’t many moments to have some fun, but I try my best when the option presents itself,” Shane told us.  “A trip inside one of the nicest stadiums in Spain or even the world was one of these so I had to make the most of it with one of the French riders.”

After two weeks of racing there have been three opportunities for the sprinters and BORA-Hansgrohe, thanks in no small part to Shane, have taken two of them for Sam Bennett.  But the Flying Mullet has been far from redundant when he’s not been leading out his Irish teammate.  Rafal Majka sits 6th overall for the team and in good form as the race reaches the final 6 stages; and Shane has been handy for the Pole’s GC campaign as well.

“Legs feel not bad considering the intense last [2 weeks], the body had to deal with fighting the flu through the rest day and last 4 days which cost me a lot of energy I didn’t want to waste but it’s all part of a grand tour,” Archbold said.  “My job is to lead out Sam and we haven’t had many options so far, but with our team being down 2 key riders for the mountains I have had to chip in here and there in the workload to make sure [Rafal Majka] is fed and watered well.”

Shane Archbold on the climb of Los Machucos, photo Sirotti

“It’s been a very successful race so far, we made the most of the two sprint options with a first and second [then winning stage 14]. We’re currently sitting 6th on GC.  With a team of only 6 riders for most of the race not much more can be asked.  We will keep fighting until Madrid looking for more success.”

So does this mean that he will have any time for a bit of banter with Sam Bewley, Dion Smith or George Bennett over the next week?  “I think in the race I have spent about 30 mins total talking to Kiwis; which is normally just passing comments of abuse from me. This race is brutal and there haven’t been too many easy moments let alone hours to catch up and reflect. I’m sure we will all have a debrief back in Girona.”

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