After Bruno Armirail’s breakaway to the Sierra de la Pandera, Sébastien Reichenbach and Rudy Molard also went up front on Sunday towards the Sierra Nevada, for one of the Vuelta’s queen stages. On this stage 15, however, they could not compete for victory in the long final ascent, but the Swiss climber still fought until the end to take 20th at the top. It is now time for the third rest day, prior to the final week of the race.
On Sunday, the peloton was set to reach the highest peak of the Vuelta 2022. The day’s winner, as well as all the other riders, were expected at 2500 meters above sea level, on the Sierra Nevada. Before tackling this never-ending final climb (23 kilometers at 6.5%), the riders however had to cover a hundred kilometres quite flat then face the Alto del Purche (9 km at 7.5%) as an appetizer. The battle also promised to be hard from the start to enter the breakaway, once again very coveted. “It went full gas right away, like always”, said Philippe Mauduit. “The fight proved a bit shorter than yesterday before the breakaway went, after about 30 kilometres, but it went really fast. We could feel the peloton was tired, which is also why the move went away before”. Twenty-eight riders managed to open a nice gap before the first climb of the day, and Sébastien Reichenbach and Rudy Molard were among them. “We wanted to go for the stage with Thibaut, Seb, Rudy or even Quentin”, explained Philippe. “We needed to have at least one or two riders of this level in the breakaway, and that was the case. It was important to have climbers because the profile today was harder than we thought”.
“I have no regrets”, Sébastien Reichenbach
Up front, the two men from Groupama-FDJ found themselves with stage winners Richard Carapaz, Jay Vine, Marc Soler and Louis Meintjes, but also with the Giro winner Jai Hindley, the Colombian Rigoberto Uran as well as the Dutchman Thymen Arensman. “There were 4-5 riders in the break who were at 15 minutes or so back GC, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl got a bit scared and kept the breakaway at 4-5 minutes before AG2R-Citroën gave them a hand to defend O’Connor’s ranking”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “Jumbo-Visma then tried to repeat yesterday’s move, so it made for a very fast and very dense race, with riders finishing in groups of four of five”. At the bottom of the Sierra Nevada, Sébastien Reichenbach was still in the leading breakaway down to ten men, but their lead was only of 3’30. The pace therefore increased to go for victory, and the Swiss rider paid the price. He was distanced in the steepest parts and could not join the battle for the win. Thymen Arensman eventually took it in front of the GC favourites. “I didn’t feel too bad, but it was a strong breakaway, and I lacked a bit of energy to reach the big road of the Sierra Nevada with the leading group”, commented Sébastien later. “The gradients were less high then, and that would have taken me further. That being said, I have no regrets… I have made a lot of effort for nothing this week and I start to feel the fatigue”.
The Swiss climber still reached the line in twentieth position, about seven minutes from the winner. “The place at the finish isn’t so relevant, but it is important to note the riders’ spirit despite the difficulties”, said Philippe. “Despite the fact that half of the group is still feeling a bit weak, everyone is trying to contribute and to make sure that we manage to be in the breakaways in order to go for stage victory. For the moment, it’s just too difficult, but we hope that the rest day will do us good. We shouldn’t give up, and we should keep believing, because it worked for some, and I do not see why it would not work for us”.