Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors has his second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a Espana. The Italian got the better of Peter Sagan and Giacomo Nizzolo on the first post-rest day stage of the race. George Bennett finished safely in the bunch to retain his top ten position on GC.
177km from Salamanca. VIII Centenario Universidad de Salamanc to Fermoselle Bermillo de Sayago was almost certainly one for the sprinters with just a third category climb to really stretch the legs beforehand. After a very aggressive opening few kilometres a solo attacker in the form of Jesus Ezquerra of Burgos-BH went up the road and was finally joined by Katusha-Alpecin’s Tiago Machado after 30km of racing. Together the duo built a lead of 4 minutes as the sprint teams of Trek-Segafredo, Quick-Step Floors, BORA-Hansgrohe and Cofidis worked behind them to control the peloton.
Mitchelton-Scott weren’t far from the front of the race, with red jersey on the shoulders of Simon Yates. With 63km to go the gap to the break was at 1.50mins and for some time the break’s lead sat at that margin, but it would all change on the 5.3km category 3 climb. Quick-Step Floors and Movistar were among those paying attention to the front of the peloton but with 33km to go it was BORA-Hansgrohe who hit the front of the race with the time gap at 1.16mins to the leaders.
The break’s lead crumbled at a rate of knots as BORA-Hansgrohe drilled the peloton while up ahead Machado pressed on solo, with his gap disintegrating as the peloton closed in on an early catch. Ezquerra was caught with about 2.4km to go on the climb, while Machado resisted a little longer, finally succumbing with 1.8km left to climb; 30.5km from the finish line.
From here there was still plenty of road for attackers to try and upset the sprinters and although the pace was solid from the peloton, there wasn’t the same frantic urgency as there might more readily be if the break was still a a reasonable way ahead. With 22km to go a solo attack went up the road courtesy of another Burgos-BH rider in Diego Rubio. It was a strong attack and met with a response from Quick-Step Floors and Bahrain-Merida.
Simon Yates in the leader’s jersey wasn’t void of problems, having to stop to attend to a mechanical issue late in the piece. Thankfully for the Brit, he was accompanied by a good number of teammates who aided him comfortably back to the peloton.
Eventually the catch to Rubio was made with 9km to go and it was all go from here. LottoNL-Jumbo moved forward in the peloton with Team Sunweb, Bahrain-Merida, UAE Team Emirates and Quick-Step Floors all getting involved on the front of the bunch through 5km to go.
At 2km to go Quick-Step Floors made a big effort on an uphill rise to try and line up Elia Viviani who was perfectly positioned, with Peter Sagan right with him. With 1km to go though Lukas Postlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe made a big attack to try and cause an upset. Michael Morkov of Quick-Step Floors gave chase and caught the Austrian as Quick-STep took control of the sprint. Elia Viviani hit the front virtually unchallenged and there was just nothing Sagan nor Nizzolo could do to challenge him.