LES PRAERES, Spain (VN) — Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) has been fighting much of this Vuelta a España to work into a breakaway. He finally got his shot Saturday on the lumpy road to Les Praeres in stage 14. The only problem was that GC danger-man Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) had the same idea.
No one wanted the unpredictable Pole to ride back into the frame, so the top teams piled on to keep the breakaway on a short leash. That was bad news for Bookwalter.
“It was unfortunate that the composition of the group wasn’t right as we quickly saw that the GC teams weren’t going to give us too much room,” Bookwalter said. “Of course, it was smart of them to do that, especially with Kwiatkowski in the breakaway too, but it was a bit of a pity for us.”
Bookwalter and BMC Racing teammate Nicolas Roche linked up with Kwiatkowski in what was a jumpy start to Saturday’s stage 14. It’s been a big fight every day to ride into the breaks so far in the Vuelta. Unlike the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, the breakaways have had a better chance of sticking, so many teams and riders are trying their luck.
Others joining the eventual move were local rider Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) and eternal breakaway master Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal).
The main bunch, powered by Movistar and overnight leaders Cofidis, were not in a giving mood. Kwiatkowski was just too close and viewed too much of a threat — starting the day at 19th at 5:02 — to let it ride away.
Despite the lumpy stage, the gap never grew much beyond three minutes. Bookwalter, one of the more experienced riders in the bunch, knew the move didn’t have much hope.
“I was happy to be up there and out of the scrum of the peloton finally,” Bookwalter said. “I have been trying in one way or another to get in the breakaway every day and although it’s been good for the team it’s personally been a little bit frustrating to see my teammates up there in moves that have been able to stay away.”
Kwiatkowski was the last man standing as the breakaway effort was reeled in coming into the base of the final climb. With Lagos de Covadonga on Sunday and a time trial Tuesday following Monday’s rest day, Bookwalter hopes to have another shot before this Vuelta is over.
“I enjoyed having some open road ahead of me and it felt good to be there,” he said. “It probably cost me a lot in terms of energy but I think a lot of guys are starting to get tired and hopefully we can get through tomorrow alright and press reset again on the rest day.”