The German won from a large breakaway group that fractured late in the stage before coming back together for a sprint. The leaders attacked each other relentlessly through the rain-soaked, roundabout-strewn streets of Igualada as the main peloton took the cautious approach and rolled in steadily to the line, 10 minutes later.
The stage win makes some consolation for his Arndt’s Sunweb team, who lost Nicolas Roche to a crash in the previous days.
“It’s amazing,” said Arndt after that stage. “I said yesterday I wanted to be in the breakaway, and it was so hard today.”
Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural – Seguros) finished second after attacking numerous times in the final throes of the stage.
“It’s a real shame to lose because we knew today was a good chance for the break to win,” said the Spaniard. “We pushed really hard on the climb to try to drop a few riders but Arndt came back to us on the descent. We knew he would be fast in the sprint, and he was.”
The GC group tapped into the finish together having neutralized itself as the rain poured down on the race in the final hour, which was rendered tricky by a category 2 climb and technical following descent.
With the GC favorites not contesting the stage, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) was able to take the red jersey, having started the stage 16th overall, 6:24 back. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), who wore the red jersey earlier in the race, was also in the breakaway group at the front of the race, and moved back up to second on GC.
Key contenders for the overall Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (both Movistar) finished together in the peloton and remain within 27 seconds of each other, occupying the third to sixth spots in the overall.
In a respite from three successive summit finishes in the last three stages, the 166.9km rolling route had a flat finish, but always looked likely to see a breakaway contest the win rather than the sprinters due to a tough 7km category 2 climb peaking out just 25km from the line.
Sure enough, a strong 21-rider breakaway formed after an hour of racing, including Arndt, Teuns, Edet, Aranburu, and strongmen such as Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Luis León Sánchez (Astana), and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), the latter of whom took third place in the final sprint.
The group worked together well to build up a 6-minute advantage by the foot of the decisive category 2 climb. It was Stetina who kick-started the action, attacking halfway up the ascent, fracturing the group. As the rain started to fall heavily, the breakaway came back together over the summit of the climb, before carefully inching their way down the following tight bends.
Ruben Guerreiro (Katusha-Alpecin), Martijn Tusveld (Sunweb) and Fernando Barceló (Euskadi Basque Country) threw caution to the wind on the descent, and clipped of the front as the rain bounced off the pavement.
Ararnburu bridging to the lead trio at the bottom of the descent, and the four riders gained 10 seconds on the chasers. The quartet looked as though they may make their attack stick, however, the chasers re-gained contact just as Tusveld slid out on the greasy surface of a roundabout with 3km to go.
Stybar and Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ) both tried separate attacks as the lead group spread itself across the streets in the chaotic following kilometers, but the action always came together again, and the bunch rounded the final bend as one.
Aranburu and Guerreiro both went early in the final sprint, but Arndt came through the middle to take the win by a clear bike-length.
“Tusveld was up front [in the attack quartet], so I could sit in and wait,” explained stage-winner Arndt. “Then I saw him crashing and we all came back together. I just followed all the attacks so I could stay in the game. I knew I was fast enough to win in the sprint, so I knew I just had to keep it together.”
Sunday’s stage 9 in Andorra could prove pivotal to the whole race. With four categorized climbs and a high-altitude summit finish all packed into under 100km, the red jersey is more than likely to swap shoulders again tomorrow as GC-hostilities recommence.