That makes it three for Quentin Pacher. For the third time since the start of the Vuelta a Espana, the French puncher managed to net a top-10, within the bunch. Better still, on stage 16 this Tuesday into Tomares, he took his second top-5 after outsprinting a small bunch behind a group that stayed away in the final. A good way to launch the last week of the Vuelta for the entire Groupama-FDJ cycling team.

The home stretch to Madrid started on Tuesday, still in Andalusia, with a sixteenth stage featuring very little climbing and almost 190 kilometres. The sprinters therefore had a penultimate opportunity to fight for victory before arriving in the Spanish capital. Consequently, few runners were keen to spend the day up front. In fact, there were just two: Luis Angel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH). The duo went as soon as the flag was dropped, and the peloton gave them a maximum lead of four minutes before keeping them under control. A long chase without suspense took place, before the breakaway was reeled in 14 kilometres from the line. “These days are never completely easy, because the peloton is still riding at a good pace and because there was a little crosswind all day”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “The wind was certainly not strong, but it kept the peloton in one line throughout the stage. At the end of the day, it still makes for a tiring day. It was not very intense for sure, but it was not a day where you could sit peacefully in the middle of the bunch. Also, it was long and very hot”.

“I’m a bit frustrated”, Quentin Pacher

In the last ten kilometres, the peloton prepared for a particular sprint, which was preceded by roundabouts and small uphill parts. “The stage’s profile was rather easy, with the exception of the last three kilometres”, said Quentin Pacher. “We knew the final would be punchy. Positioning was very important, but for a rider like me, who is more a puncher than a sprinter, it’s not necessarily easy to position around guys who have these qualities”. “The idea was to go either with Fabian or with Quentin, and so they had to talk to each other in the final about their feelings in order to help whoever felt best”, continued Philippe. “Fabian eventually found himself a bit boxed in against the barriers at one point, while Quentin was able to pass through”. Everything went very quickly in the final, however, as Primoz Roglic anticipated the sprint 2,500 meters from the line and was joined by four fast men. “When the five attacked, I was not in the front row, so it wasn’t possible for me to follow them,” said Quentin. “When I found my way into the leading positions, the gap was already made, so I focused on outsprinting the peloton, which I did”. While Mads Pedersen took a second victory in the race and Roglic crashed in the home stretch, the Frenchman picked up a fine fifth place on the line.

“I’m satisfied to be still in the mix, but I’m a bit frustrated not being able to be there when they attacked, and not being able to try to follow them,” added Quentin. “I am happy to be up there anyway on a finish that suited me well. It’s a good start for our third week”. “It’s always better to be up there in the standings and to play a role in the race rather than to endure it”, concluded Philippe. “The guys were committed to Quentin and Fabian, and this dedication was necessary in order to start tomorrow morning in a good way. We don’t know if the favorites will come for the win or not, but our only chance of taking that stage victory will be through the breakaway”.

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