The day after his eighth place in Tarragona, Lewis Askey achieved another noteworthy result on Wednesday in Burriana. Yet, on stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana, the 22-year-old Briton was supposed to lead-out his teammate and fellow-countryman Sam Watson. However, a crash from the latter with three kilometres to go turned everything upside down and Lewis Askey therefore got in the mix himself. Perfectly positioned entering the final stretch, he couldn’t match Kaden Groves for victory, but he still took fifth position on the line. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team now tallies five top-10s in as many stages in the Vuelta.
The Vuelta set foot in the Valencian Community this Wednesday, with a fifth stage quite suitable to the fast men, despite more than 2000 meters of elevation gain on the day’s menu. Towards Burriana, only one climb was categorized, about fifty kilometres from the finish, and the sprinters’ teams did not want to miss one of the rare opportunities. A duo first broke away after a handful of minutes, then a trio unsuccessfully tried, and in the end, a single man managed to take the lead of the race. Uruguay’s Eric Fagúndez (Burgos-BH) broke away after fifteen kilometres and established the day’s breakaway alone. The peloton gave him a lead of more than five minutes, but obviously had no trouble controlling him. The gap reduced to three minutes halfway through the race, then to just two minutes at the bottom of the only KOM. The best climber’s jersey wearer, Eduardo Sepulveda, then attacked from the peloton to catch the leading man and score as many points as possible at the top. The two South Americans were eventually caught shortly after the descent, at the start of a fast last hour of racing. “It was not an easy stage, with a lot of tension on very winding roads”, specified Benoît Vaugrenard.
“I did the sprint thanks to positioning”, Lewis Askey
In the last thirty kilometres, Clément Davy and Lorenzo Germani made sure to keep Lenny Martinez in the front, then the final sprint gradually set up after the bonus sprint located eleven kilometres from the line. “Today, as agreed on the flat finishes, we were going for Sam”, explained the sports director. Romain Grégoire did some preparatory work before Lewis Askey took charge of leading his fellow countryman. The British duo actually was in a good position approaching the last three kilometres. “It was again very stressful,” Lewis said. “Obviously the plan was to ride for Sam, but in one of the last roundabouts, two riders crashed in front of us, and he was caught. I was able to pass on the outside, but I lost speed. Then, I heard on the radio that Sam crashed, so I took my chance”. A few metres behind his teammate, Sam Watson touched the ground and immediately saw his hopes vanish. Right in front, Lewis Askey was forced to produce a sharp acceleration to come back in the main group but did manage to get back in the mix. “As we planned at the briefing, I didn’t want to make an effort before the home stretch, and to take advantage of the others’ slipstream,” said Lewis. “It worked quite well, and I took the last corner on the inside. I was able to take Kaden Groves’s wheel, as I knew he was the strongest, and I did the sprint thanks to positioning”.
Positioned in the wheel of the stage’s big favorite, the 22-year-old Englishman then waited for the Australian to launch the sprint to give what he had left. He couldn’t fight for the win, but still took a solid top-5 on the line. “Yesterday I was a bit disappointed because I had put good numbers in the sprint”, he said. “I don’t think I did today, but I was in a really good position. I can’t have any regrets, especially since I wasn’t supposed to go for the sprint. I hope Sam will be fine and that he will soon be able to have his chance. “It’s a good result for Lewis, it will give him confidence,” added Benoît. “It’s promising for the whole team, we’re getting closer. Our series of top 10s continues, but the goal is to get closer to victory. As for Clément, he experienced a tough day, but he was brave and did his job. We hope that he will regain his full potential in the coming days”. Meanwhile, Lenny Martinez managed to avoid the splits in the final and kept his third place in the general classification. The latter could change quite a lot tomorrow towards the Javalambre Observatory (11 km at 8%). “It’s a very hard summit finish, and we don’t know what will happen”, concluded Benoît. “The breakaway could make it to the end, but everything will depend on the Jumbo-Visma”.