The main favorites of the Vuelta put on a real fight on Wednesday, at the top of the Lagos de Covadonga, leaving no room for the breakaway riders. However, Olivier Le Gac still got the opportunity to lead the race solo for almost thirty kilometers halfway through the stage before the battle really started. The Frenchman was caught in the penultimate climb and then finished at his own pace towards the iconic summit where Thibaut Pinot took the win back in 2018.
“It was still a nice day”, Olivier Le Gac
On their way to Santiago de Compostela, the riders had to face, on Wednesday, the first of the two big mountain stages left on this Vuelta. Before heading to the unprecedented finish of Altu of El Gamoniteiru through 5,000 metres of elevation gain on Thursday, nearly 4,500 were already on the program towards the most traditional climb to the Lagos de Covadonga today. Two climbs of La Collada Llomena also featured on the peloton’s menu. Despite many attempts at the start, it proved impossible for a break to go before the first of these ascents, located after 80 kilometres. “The fight to enter the break lasted for a while, like every day,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We tried to enter it again, first with Arnaud and Olivier, then with Kevin, and finally Olivier proved to be successful”. The man from Brittany managed to earn his place at the front of the race after nearly two hours at high speed. “We wanted to be in front, to be offensive,” he said. “Six of us went away first, with Arnaud, and he gave me a hard time! I recovered a bit, then tried to get back in the lead at the bottom of the second categorized climb of the day.” He then found himself in a group of about twenty men, led by UAE Team Emirates, but with no real margin on the peloton. The breakaway group crossed the summit with just a minute-lead, and the man from Brest then dropped his companions on the slightly wet road.
“I was pretty comfortable on the descent and went solo,” he said. “I was expecting a bit of support from the back, but I saw nobody was coming across so I thought “given the situation,you might as well continue!” On the downhill, I realized that it was slippery, and there were a few rain drops, so I kept goingand told myself that we never knew what could happen in the back”. After the downhill, the Frenchman was thirty seconds ahead of the chasing group, which was caught by the bunch shortly after. Alone in the lead for thirty kilometers, he was even able to tackle the second ascent of La Collada Llomena solo before seeing the red jersey group coming back. “Then, itwas the big fight and I made it through the finish line as best I could,” he smiled. “It was still a nice day.” “He did a good race”, confirmed Thierry Bricaud. “Today’s scenario meant that there was nothing to hope for as the GC riders competed for the stage. He was certainly hoping for the breakaway to be smaller and to gain more time, but that was not the case as Ineos pulled immediately. However, the spirit was the right one”.
“We will continue to join in the fight”, Thierry Bricaud
After following an attack from Egan Bernal sixty kilometres from the line, Primoz Roglic soloed to the stage victory, alsotaking back the overall leadership. Anthony Roux was the first Groupama-FDJ rider to get to the top of the Lagos de Covadonga, but everyone safely finished within the time limits. “They just tried to get to the line as safely as possible,”added Thierry Bricaud. “They have never been in trouble, but have certainly fought all day in the back“. A lot of riders will experience such a situation again on Thursday, through the 163 kilometres of racing. “It’s pretty much the same stage astoday,” explained Thierry. “Now that the GC is a bit clearer, and that Roglic has taken back the jersey, we might think it could be a bit calmer and that the break will make it tomorrow. We will continue to join in the fight and try to enter the right break“. Today’s man of the day had the exact same thoughts. “We will try to go back in front,” Olivier concluded. “Other riders in the team are able to do it and the overall shape is good. We will try to enjoy the race and get the best possible result. There might be better chances for us at the end of the week, because we are not real climbers… Anyway, we will give our best every time and we will see where that takes us”.