Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana took the riders to the spectacular climb of Les Praeres, in Asturias, on Sunday. At the top of this four-kilometre ascent averaging 13% with slopes exceeding 20%, Louis Meintjes took the win from the breakaway while Remco Evenepoel consolidated his red jersey. Not at the front of the race this time, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team is now heading to a very welcome rest daybefore the second week of racing.
The second stage of the weekend had some similarities with the first one that the riders faced on Saturday. Slightly longer, stage 9 also included many climbs and flat portions before a final ascent that was set to be decisive, although it was very different from the day before. However, the breakaway struggled just as much to establish itself. The day’s fugitivesonly went after 45 kilometres. There were ten at first, and then nine: Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan), Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain Victorious), Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal), Jimmy Janssens, Robert Stannard (Alpecin Deceuninck), José Manuel Diaz Gallego (Burgos-BH) and Simon Guglielmi (Arkea Samsic). Although Groupama-FDJ did try to make their way to the front in the first hour of racing, and that Quentin Pacher was alone up front for some time, none rider of the team managed to enter the break. The latter enjoyed a good enough lead from the bunch and was able to fight for victory on the slopes of Les Praeres (3.8 km at 13%). Louis Meintjes took the win while Remco Evenepoel distanced even more his rivals on GC. Quentin Pacher was the team’s first rider to reach the summit, more than six minutes after the winner.
“The guys did a great job on this first half of the Vuelta“, Philippe Mauduit
“I think the guys didn’t really have the legs to go back for it today, even if Quentin tried quite a few times,” said Philippe Mauduit. “That being said, we can’t be disappointed from the very first stage in which we couldn’t get a result and in whichwe were not in the breakaway. This is the first time this has happened on this Vuelta, so there is nothing to be worried about. The guys did a great job on this first half of the Vuelta, and I think we should focus on that instead. Once we understood that the breakaway would make it, we took it easy,and the goal was just to reach the finish line”. A little later, the riders were taken to the airport in order to fly to Alicante, and therefore fully enjoy their rest day on Monday. “We sent a few staff early this morning to Alicante so that they can welcome the riders who will arrive around 11 p.m., prepare their rooms and dinner”, explained Philippe. “We have putphysiotherapists and assistants on the plane so that the riderscan have a massage tomorrow morning. All the rest of the staff drive the other vehicles to Alicante. There are about 900 kilometres, so it will take us part of the evening, and part of the day tomorrow”. On Tuesday, the Vuelta will resume with a 31-kilometre time trial.