Until the very end, the Groupama-FDJ climbers have tried everything to get this long-awaited stage victory. This Saturday, on the last mountain stage of the Vuelta, Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot first managed to make their way to the front of the race after an extremely grueling start. The Frenchman later tried to take a step ahead, the Swiss rider held on for a long time in the front, but the GC contenders decided otherwise and only Richard Carapaz was able to stay away for the win. Thibaut Pinot took sixteenth place on the line, movinUntil the very end, the Groupama-FDJ climbers have tried everything to get this long-awaited stage victory. This Saturday, on the last mountain stage of the Vuelta, Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot first managed to make their way to the front of the race after an extremely grueling start. The Frenchman later tried to take a step ahead, the Swiss rider held on for a long time in the front, but the GC contenders decided otherwise and only Richard Carapaz was able to stay away for the win. Thibaut Pinot took sixteenth place on the line, moving up to seventeenth overall, while the race will come to an end tomorrow in Madrid.g up to seventeenth overall, while the race will come to an end tomorrow in Madrid.
A last firework display before heading to the Spanish capital. This is what was expected from today, between Moralzarzal and the Puerto de Navacerrada, on the last mountain stage of the 2022 Vuelta. Five climbs and 4000 meters of elevation gain featured on the day’s profile with battles set to occur both for the stage win and for the overall. However, the real fight only started after twenty kilometres, starting the first ascent of the day which was expected to create some damage. While a first breakaway was already up front, the race got lively again, and multiple counterattacks came from the peloton. Attentive and in shape, Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot managed to enter a chasing group despite uninterrupted pressure from the red jersey peloton. At the top, about twenty men were able to start the downhill with a slight margin, but without being all together. In pursuit, the two Groupama-FDJ riders did not therefore immediately catch the leading riders, while the bunch reorganized and soon started to pull. “It obviously didn’t favor the breakaway’s plans, but we can’t control that”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “Few people would have imagined that Bora-hansgrohe would chase at that time, but they kind of sacrificed the breakaway’s chances”. In a long valley leading to the second climb of the day, the chasing group including Thibaut Pinot and Sébastien Reichenbach also continued to lose time against a leading duo, while seeing the peloton getting closer.
“We shouldn’t have regrets”, Philippe Mauduit
This uncomfortable situation led the French climber to attack from the first slopes of Puerto de Navafria (10 km at 5.5%), with almost a hundred kilometres still to go. After making a gap alone, he was then joined by Gino Mäder and Gregor Mühlberger. “It was a complicated breakaway, where the cooperation wasn’t great”, said Thibaut to explain his move. “We knew that there were a lot of riders who were not necessarily there to move the group forward, but rather to help their leaders afterwards”. “There were several factors to take into account at this point in the race”, added Philippe. “Stannard and Soler had a lead of 1’40, the chasing group did not work well together, the pace wasn’t fast enough. The idea was to reduce this group and get away with another, smaller group of 7-8 riders. Unfortunately, only two followed Thibaut and that made his task a bit more difficult. They made a big effort to catch Soler and Stannard, and as the group behind felt threatened, they reorganized, they worked better together and eventually came back”. After a tough pursuit, the trio led by Thibaut Pinot bridge across to the front duo, but the gap on the rest of the breakaway decreased very fast approaching the Puerto from Canendia. “We don’t have any regrets, and when we know the scenario afterwards, we obviously think we could have waited for the penultimate climb,” Philippe reacted. “This is actually what we had imagined, but we are not in the bunch and the riders make their own decisions. Considering the information he had and what he saw, Thibaut wanted to go all-in at this point. We shouldn’t have regrets because he did it with the goal of taking the win”.
“It’s a good sign for next year”, Thibaut Pinot
The attempt from the Frenchman proved vain, and the breakaway was therefore back all together before the penultimate climb of the day, which was also the most difficult one: Puerto de la Morcuera (9.2 km at 6.8%). When attacks resumed in the lead, Sébastien Reichenbach managed to follow them, but Thibaut Pinot paid for his previous efforts. “I anticipated, and I regretted it, because I really struggled on the penultimate climb”, explained the Frenchman. His Swiss teammate remained in the chasing group but was never able to catch the Carapaz-Meintjes-Higuita trio. In the meantime, the red jersey bunch came back very fast. In the final climb of the Vuelta, the Puerto de Cotos, Sébastian Reichenbach was caught by the favourites’ group featuring Thibaut Pinot, while Carapaz managed to make it to the line. In the last ascent, Thibaut Pinot tried to follow the best but eventually reached the finish line one minute after them, in sixteenth position. “When they have a small bit of energy left, the riders always try to hang on”, concluded Philippe Mauduit. “That’s what Seb and Thibaut did, but they also put in a lot of effort from the very start. They didn’t have the same energy as the leaders at the bottom of the last climb, but that’s part of the game. In any case, the team was combative, as usual. It is also reassuring to see Thibaut finish his second consecutive Grand Tour after difficult years. It’s really going to do him good for next year.”
“I’m ending the race quite well, that’s the positive note,” confirmed Thibaut. “I didn’t have my best legs today, but I’m still happy with today considering how tired I am. I’ve got almost 85 days of racing this year, so I’m happy to have finished two Grand Tours in a row and to end this Vuelta in a solid way. It’s a good sign for next year.” “I was happy to be with Thibaut in front today,” said Sébastien, 24th of the stage. “It’s a real pity that Meintjes was in front because Bora-hansgrohe defended his tenth place overall and pulled behind. That’s the day’s regret”. The two men still did everything they could on Saturday before heading to Madrid, on Sunday, to complete the last Grand Tour of the season with a possible bunch sprint.