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The grand tour rookie rode into the day’s main breakaway in stage 16, and held out until the closing 10km before the bunch reeled them in to set up the mass sprint Tuesday.
For the Trek-Segafredo rider, riding into the breakaway was just as much about today as tomorrow.
“It was my first breakaway of this race, and my career,” Simmons said at the line. “It didn’t make it, but it’s a nice start.”
Simmons, 20, pulled clear early on what many saw was the last chance in this Vuelta for the sprinters, so even he knew his chances were slim of making it all the way to the finish line.
“On a day like today, you really the sprinters to mess it up if you want to survive,” he said. “It was a kind of long shot from the beginning, but for the next few days, I will be in the gruppetto for sure. When they kept us around two minutes, it was hard to keep the faith. There’s always the chance they mess it up, so you just have to go flat out.”
Trek-Segafredo GC captain Ciccone crashes out
Simmons’ breakaway attempt came on a day when teammate Giulio Ciccone crashed out early in the stage. Team officials confirmed a chainring cut into the Italian’s knee in a pileup early in the race, and despite trying to ride on, he pulled off about 20km later. Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), fighting for a spot on the deep Belgian team headed to the world championships on their home soil, also crashed out.
Also read: Quinn Simmons to race gravel in future
Ciccone, 26, started the stage 12th overall and was hoping to move higher into the top-10 in the closing week of his first grand tour as an outright GC leader.
“I don’t know the details of what happened, but that’s a super-bummer for the team,” Simmons said. “You saw how good he is riding, and we’ve done a really good job protecting him. For him, he proved he can be a grand tour leader, and even though he didn’t finish it, this will be a good step in his career.”
Next goals: road worlds and Roubaix
Simmons is now deep into the third week of his first grand tour, and he’s never raced so many days in a row. With ascents of Covadonga and Gaminoteiru looming on the horizon, Simmons said it’s all about managing his forces and making it to Galicia.
“It was a good day to try and see where the legs are at,” Simmons said. “It doesn’t slow down [the pace] at all. I figured after two weeks we’d all be tired and going slow, but we’re all tired and going the same speed.”
Up next for Simmons are the elite men’s world championships and Paris-Roubaix. The last time he rode the worlds, in 2019, he won the junior world title on the road.
“A few more hard days, then some rest, and then looking ahead at the final two objectives of the year,” he said. “I started off quite bad in this Vuelta. I was sick the week before, and I didn’t ride so much, so it’s been three weeks where every day I’ve been feeling better.
“So even if the special day doesn’t come here, it’s a good sign going towards worlds and Roubaix.”