On Tuesday, the Tour of Spain resumed in a good way for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, and more particularly for Bruno Armirail. The Frenchman indeed took a remarkable fifth place in the time trial that launched the third week of racing. The 26-year-old rider beat some big names as well as some GC contenders, equalling his best result on a Grand Tour.

“We took risks”, David Han

With quite a special time trial planned on Tuesday, the return to racing after the rest day was set to be very tough. Although the day’s course was quite flat for about thirty kilometers, the last 1800 meters of the stage were to be contested on 14%-average gradients. The Mirador de Ézaro, already visited on the Vuelta in the past, hosted the finale of this time trial made for complete riders. Within the Groupama-FDJ, the expectations were on Bruno Armirail, both a very good rider and a solid climber. “He was aiming for the top 10 at first, then we kindly put the top-5 goal in his mind,” explained his coach David Han. “We had nothing to lose. Being ninth or fourteenth is the same thing. If we wanted to aim for the top-5, we had to start very fast. We had agreed that he would start above his usual performance zones. We took risks also thinking that the last climb would come down to what’s left in the legs. Obviously these risks paid off”. At the bottom of the Mirador de Ézaro, Bruno Armirail held the second fastest time, only beaten by Nelson Oliveira, who he spent some time with in the breakaway on Saturday.

“I was a little above the expected power, but still felt good,” Bruno said. “I felt I was able to make a stronger start, and that we would see where it could take us. I wasn’t the big favourite today, so it was worth giving it a try. There was a headwind all the way and it was really tough. On the profile, you could also think that the course was quite flat, but there were some slightly uphill stretches. As for the climb, it was very, very hard, especially having done 35-40 minutes full gas before. It is hard when you enter it, but you need to stay strong mentally and tell yourself that it’s like that for everyone. The mind is very important. Maybe I lost a little bit of time in the climb but I still did a nice time trial”. When he got to the line, the Frenchman managed to set the second provisional time. He initially remained cautious about his performance given that twenty riders or so were still on their way. He eventually happily noticed that only three other competitors were able to beat him, including the stage winner and new red jersey Primoz Roglic.

“I’m still quite satisfied”, Bruno Armirail

 “Eventually I’m fifth, and that’s good,” he said. “It’s not bad at all. I still need to gain four places and take back 40 seconds if I want to win, but to net a top 5 in a Grand Tour time trial is pretty good, especially in the third week. I am still quite satisfied. It means that all the effort that I’ve been doing in terms of position, work on the time trial bike, with the altitude camps as well as all the sacrifices are starting to pay off. Hopefully it will continue like that and other results will come. Why not a time trial victory one day?” “Bruno reached an important milestone this year”, confirmed David Han. “I think everyone has noticed it but he made it concrete with two personal results: on the French championship with the bronze medal and today with a top 5. He’s also been doing a huge amount of work for David from the start of the Vuelta. Today, he logically had the freedom to do his thing in his favourite discipline and he was rewarded”.

As for David Gaudu, he took a solid 28th place on Tuesday, which allows him to remain 12th overall before three hilly stages that will probably suit the breakaways.

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