On the eve of a decisive stage for the Vuelta’s outcome, the riders did not have the chance to take it easy on Friday towards Ciudad Rodrigo. There was no rest over the 162 kilometers of the stage 16, and a small bunch of about 40 riders ultimately battled for victory. Still there alongside his leader David Gaudu, Bruno Armirail tried to take a head start at the flamme rouge, but his attempt was closed 500 meters from the line. As for Gaudu, he still sits 11th overall ahead of the crucial top finish at Alto de la Covatilla.

“We had to try, to be bold, and that’s what Bruno did”, Philippe Mauduit

The day after the longest day of the Vuelta 2020, a rather short stage of 162 kilometers was on the riders’ menu on Friday. It was not without obstacles though, and the undulating profile made it particularly interesting for the breakaway. There was therefore a real fight at the start of the race, but it only lasted about thirty minutes before the peloton let Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott), Kobe Goossens (Lotto Soudal), Jesus Ezquerra, Angel Madrazo and Juan Felipe Osorio (Burgos-BH) go. “It was a bit of an unexpected scenario,” Philippe Mauduit said later. “The weather forecast predicted a strong side wind for the first twenty-five kilometers, but not much happened in the end”. The risk of echelons that many teams feared was therefore quickly ruled out and the day’s breakaway was able to develop. The gap even reached five minutes before the sprinters’ teams took control. However, Ineos proved to be the one dooming the breakaway’s chances, accelerating in the Puerto El Portillo’s downhill halfway through the race and then in Puerto El Robledo. All that “blew the peloton apart” said Philippe Mauduit.

At the top of this last categorized climb, 35 kilometers from the finish, only fifty riders or so were still in the bunch, including Bruno Armirail and David Gaudu. In the lead, Rémi Cavagna put on a great fight, with Robert Stannard at first, then by himself in the last twenty kilometers. The French time trial champion eventually lost to the red jersey group in the final moments. “It was going very, very fast,” told Bruno Armirail. “Cavagna did an amazing ride. We were going full gas but we only brought him back with two kilometers remaining. With David, we said: why not give it a go in the last kilometre if it comes back together. I wasn’t going too bad and gave it a try, thinking that there was nothing to lose. There was a little hesitation and I had to take advantage of it. Maybe I could have started a bit after but that’s how it is”. Although the Frenchman managed to take and maintain a few metres on the pack he was finally caught with 500 meters from the line. “It was a great attack,” said Philippe. “We had to try, to be bold, and that’s what he did. We knew Movistar would continue to pull for Valverde, but it was still a good move to make”.

“There is every reason to be hopeful”, Thierry Bricaud

“I’m not an expert of this ‘kilometre attack’, but I have no regrets,” Bruno added. “I had better feelings than the previous two days so it bodes well for tomorrow”. On Saturday, the time trial specialist will be supporting David Gaudu in the last mountain stage of the Vuelta. It will obviously be decisive for the overall, where the young climber from Groupama-FDJ still sits in eleventh position. “There is a good chance that it will come down to the last climb, regarding the favourites”, concluded Thierry Bricaud. “Unless there is a long distance attack from Movistar, who have nothing more to lose. However, given the strength of Roglic’s team, it might be difficult. Regarding David, given his legs for a few days, we can hope that he will do a nice final climb. There is every reason to be hopeful”.

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