Despite a hilly profile, the riders did go very fast in the Vuelta on Friday. In these circumstances, Anthony Roux still managed to grab 5th place on the line within a small breakaway that ruined the continuous chase from the bunch. The experienced 34-year-old rider thus brought Groupama-FDJ its second top-5 on the event before the last race weekend, and therefore the last opportunities.
“A real team effort”, Franck Pineau
It was better to be ready at the start of stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana this Friday. Before tackling three nice climbs in the first fifty kilometers, the riders had to cover ten kilometres on flat roads, and a lot of them wanted to take advantage of this section to break away. When entering the first climb, around twenty riders actually managed to get a one minute-gap and the Groupama-FDJ had two men at the head of the race at that point: Anthony Roux and Arnaud Démare. “Arnaud mostly wanted to get over the climbs,” explained Anthony. “Being in the break would have made his goal a bit easier.” The peloton did not calm down, however. The race did not take a moment of rest and the breakaway therefore was reduced to 18 men. “The first three climbs were ok for me in terms of average gradient, but it was a real fight with the peloton,” said Anthony, who managed to hold his place up front. The gap only very briefly exceeded two minutes, especially in the feed zone, while Arnaud Démare then tried to cope with the bunch’s relentless pace. “After he was dropped from the break, Arnaud got back to the peloton but there were still some hills along the way,” said Franck. “In the third climb, he got a bit distanced, and we told three of our guys to wait for him. There was great solidarity from his teammates to bring him back. It really was a team effort! “
Around the halfway point, Groupama-FDJ therefore had two potential cards for the stage victory. At the head of the race, Anthony Roux made sure to do just what was necessary. “We asked ‘’Roupette’’ not to work too much in front, just to do the bare minimum, in order not to get caught behind but also to keep energy for the final”, explained Franck. “I took my turns without overdoing it,” confirmed the rider himself. “I would rather pull a bit and cooperate than become everyone’s target. I don’t think that’s the solution. You have to do your part and take your turns in peace. I didn’t push hard, but I didn’t make the breakaway fail, and I could also save some energy. Playing it that way also enabled me to be among the seven survivors in the final, I think”. Obviously, the group of eighteen riders split along the way. The first attack came with sixty-three kilometres to go, and the breakaway first reduced to just eleven men. With 35 kilometres remaining, the fight started again and four more riders got dropped. Anthony Roux managed to stay in the lead alongside Magnus Cort, Lawson Craddock (EF Education-Nippo), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) and Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates).
“I have no regrets, I gave everything”, Anthony Roux
“It was full gas all day”, said Anthony. “It was hard to follow the attacks at first. Several teams had two riders, so being alone did not help me. I had to follow everything, but I didn’t want to regret not making the effort. I tried to look at Cort and Bagioli in particular. Then, in the final, I was already at my limit just taking turns. The pace was extremely high”. With Craddock in control, there was no other outcome than a small group sprint. Magnus Cort then grabbed his 3rd stage win on this Vuelta and Anthony Roux got fifth place a few seconds in front of the peloton. “I did not turn so well in the last curve, I lost my momentum a bit and hesitated to launch”, he said. “Anyway, there was nothing to do against Magnus Cort on a sprint like this. I have no regrets, I gave everything and managed my day well. Of course I’m disappointed because I believed in the victory. Everything was going well, with the breakaway then this group of seven. I thought of my family to do a strong sprint, which I did, but I got beaten by better riders”. “Anthony had this stage in mind for a few days,” added Franck. “He tried everything to make the best possible performance. It’s not the victory at the end, but when you see the guys in front of him… it’s not bad. Today we had two options and it was great. It shows that we are still in the game”.
Tomorrow, the riders will compete in the last road stage of this 2021 Vuelta, on the hilly Galician terrain. “The climbs are more located in the final”, concluded Franck. “We still have riders in good shape. Except maybe Tobbe, who is already thinking about the time trial, everyone will again join in the fight”.