Third day of racing on La Vuelta, and already a summit finish! On Monday, the riders were set to face the final climb of Picón Blanco, well known from the Vuelta a Burgos. At the finish, Rein Taaramae took both the win and the red jersey, while the whole Groupama-FDJ team tried to save as much energy as possible before the second sprint opportunity, tomorrow, in Molina de Aragón.
The rather short but steep Picón Blanco (7.6 km at 9.3%) was to establish a first hierarchy in the fight for the Vuelta’s general classification on Monday. Before getting to the bottom of it however, the bunch had to cover about 195 kilometers and an eight rider-breakaway managed to shape up in the very first minutes of racing, with no real opposition. Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Fenix), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Antonio Jesus Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates), Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën Team), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) and Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) then got the opportunity to take the lead, and soon to win the stage. With the red jersey’s team not so keen to defend their leadership, the leaders enjoyed a nine-minute gap. At the bottom of the final climb, the gap was still four minutes, which was way enough to fight for the win. Rein Taaramae made the most of it and took it all, while the Groupama-FDJ’s riders did just what was necessary in the back.
“We will have some work in the next few days”, Kevin Geniets
“Our goal in the first week is to support Arnaud as much as possible,” Franck Pineau said. “We also need to keep our guys fresh knowing that we will go for him tomorrow and the day after. We’re trying to stay focused on that, that’s the main goal for now. We will get more involved in the fight for the breakaways a little later. Today, the guys did not have anything special to do except following the pace of the peloton, doing the climb at their pace, and reaching the finish line safely.” Rudy Molard was the team’s first rider to get to the summit on Monday, almost four minutes after the stage winner. As for Kevin Geniets, he experienced his first summit finish in a Grand Tour. “It was more of a quiet stage today, and I tried to save some energy,” said the 24-year-old. “We will have some work to do in the next few days as the sprints with Arnaud will be very important. So I tried to finish this stage easy”. The young man also receives good advice on this Vuelta since he’s got Tobias Ludvigsson as a roommate. “We talk a lot, he tells me how he’s experiencing his days,” he added. “It’s good to have someone like him. His main advice is to finish ‘easy’ once my work is done, if I can’t go for a result. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the three weeks, I’ll see day by day, but everything is fine for now”.
On Tuesday, on the slightly hilly 163-kilometer fourth stage to Molina de Aragón, the Luxembourg champion will anyway be back to work alongside Arnaud Démare, who surely has a desire for revenge.