A loyal domestique since the start of Barcelona, Michael Storer took his chance in the Vuelta on Saturday. Stage 14 created quite a lot of damage, but the Australian rider managed to fight for the first positions after joining a large breakaway, along with Clément Davy, following a big fight at the start. The climber from Groupama-FD, however, was unable to compete against Remco Evenepoel, a solo winner, but he still stayed away from the red jersey group to grab a nice fifth place at the finish. As for Lenny Martinez, he experienced a tough day and lost more than thirty minutes. He now sits in eighteenth place overall.
Unfortunately for the riders, the hard days follow one another on the Vuelta. In the aftermath of a devastating stage towards the Tourmalet, more than 4,600 meters of elevation gainawaited the peloton on Saturday, for a fourteenth stagebetween France and Spain. Three major climbs were once again on the menu, but this time, more than fifty kilometreshad to be covered to reach the first of them. As expected, this resulted in a fierce fight for the breakaway. “We expected a strong start, we know Evenepoel, and we knew that he was going to try today after his loss yesterday,” summarized Benoît Vaugrenard. “This is what happened. We wanted to put Michael in front because he’s going strong, and we succeeded”. However, the fight lasted for forty minutes before twenty-four men managed to break away, including Michael Storer and Clément Davy for Groupama-FDJ. “Given that it was a flat start, it wasn’t easy to know when the good move would go, but the guys worked well to put Michael in front,” added Frédéric Guesdon. “It was a super hard start”,confided Michael. “I have to thank my teammates for getting me in the front. Without them it would have been difficult.” At the head of the race, the duo found the company of Remco Evenepoel, but also Romain Bardet, Lennard Kämna, Damiano Caruso or Juan Pedro Lopez. The peloton let a margin of four minutes, but the break was already reduced to a dozen men in the demanding Col Hourcère (11.6 km at 8.3%).
“I was surprised that Evenepoel attacked so early,”Michael Storer
In the pack, things also got lively quite soon, and Lenny Martinez paid the price. The young climber was distancedfrom the red jersey peloton rather early, and therefore couldn’t aim to follow the GC favorites on Saturday. At the front, the breakaway remained calm until Remco Evenepoel made a sharp attack to take first place at the top. Michael Storer got there in third position, a few meters from the Belgian and Romain Bardet. “The two continued their effort, went full-gas in the descent, and the gap kept on increasing,” explained Frédéric. “It’s a shame that Michael didn’t follow because he was physically strong.” “When Evenepoel attacked, I was a little boxed-in and I made a mistake,” explained the Australian. “Maybe if I was in Romain’s wheel, I had a chance of being with them. I was surprised that Remco attacked so early. He still had Cattaneo, so I thought he would wait for him to ride in the valley, but he didn’t”. That’s how Michael Storer then got back in a chasing group who started the next climb, the Puerto de Larrau (15 km at 7.8%), more than a minute behind the leading duo. The gap grew further in the first kilometres of climbing, then Michael Storer tried to give it a go. “He attacked because we could see that it was going to be difficult with the rest of the group,” added Frédéric. “He came back to forty seconds, but then, they gained some time again in front.” At the top, the Australian was alone in third position, but almost two minutes behind Evenepoel and Bardet. These two went on to fight for the stage victory and the Groupama-FDJ rider waited for his first chasers, Lennert Van Eetvelt and Jonathan Castroviejo.
“Lenny will try to recover during the rest day”,Benoît Vaugrenard
This trio later tackled the final climb four minutes behind the leaders, and four minutes ahead of the peloton. They couldstill compete for a good result, and Michael Storer took fifth position at the top of Puerto de Belagua (9.4 km at 6.3%), 7’24 after Evenepoel, the solo winner. “Even if I had been able to follow them earlier, they would have dropped me on the final climb,” said Michael. “I would have only been a passenger in front. I have never seen anyone as strong as Evenepoel. On the flat, he’s really unbelievable, he was with every singleattack at the start. If someone is capable of doing that, youknow it will be difficult later on. I’ve never seen somethinglike that before.” “Michael gave his all,” added Benoît. “He could have finished third, but that doesn’t change much.” The Australian also moved back to second place in the mountain rankings on Saturday but 24 points behind Evenepoel. Lenny Martinez finished with most of his teammates in a gruppetto thirty minutes behind the winner. “It wasn’t going well for him, he’s kind of going downhill,” said Benoît. “Everything adds up and he starts to pay for it. He will try to recover during the rest day, because there are still great things to donext week.” The 20-year-old climber is eighteenth overall this Saturday evening, almost 32 minutes behind Sepp Kuss. On Sunday, the punchers-attacks should get the spotlight inLekunberri.