The Belgian stage-hunter won out of a breakaway in stage 5, and he’s expecting a few more chances before this Vuelta is over.
“The goal of the team this year was to get one stage victory and we hit that goal, now the goal is to win two stages,” Wellens said before Tuesday’s seventh stage. “The team is very good, and I have good legs, so we’ll see what happens.”
Wellens has been a prolific winner over the past several years, capable of winning out of select breakaways and the occasional overall title on shorter stage races. With the abridged racing season, however, last week’s victory at the Vuelta was his first in 2020.
The 29-year-old played it perfect in stage 5 to gap Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) to win into Sabiñánigo. Following Monday’s rest day, Wellens and the rest of the Vuelta peloton clips back into gear for what expects for another chance to win in Tuesday’s two-climb stage across the cold and windy mountains at the edge of Spain’s Basque Country.
“I think today is a perfect breakaway day, and the GC teams will let a break go to the end,” Wellens said. “I will try but it is not easy, because it is always a big fight, especially when you know it’s a big chance that the breakaway will stay to the end.”
Wellens also narrowly leads the Vuelta’s King of the Mountains competition, but he’s putting a focus on a second stage win ahead of chasing the mountain points. Tuesday’s stage features two passages over the Cat. 1 Puerto de Orduña, so if he manages to sneak into the winning break, he will be in a prime position to defend the climber’s jersey.
The Orduña climb could cause problems for anyone struggling following Sunday’s cold and rainy stage in the Pyrénées. Though weather is expected to improve later this week across northern Spain, forecasters were expecting another windy and cool day for the peloton.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) will be hoping to get back on track following a miscue in Sunday’s stage to Formigal. The Slovenian struggled with a rain jacket over the day’s penultimate climb, and he was forced to chase back to the front group. That effort cost him so much that he was empty in the final assault to the finish line in cold and rain and slipped out of the lead and into fourth at 30 seconds back.
“Nothing is really lost in terms of GC,” Roglič said. “There is still a long way to go. It doesn’t change much for my team, and we have to race hard every day. It’s going to be cold and windy, it will be racing from the start to the finish.”
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) will wear the Vuelta’s red leader’s jersey in the race Tuesday after a strong finish at Formigal put him into the lead. The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner said he has no intention of letting it go.
“It means a lot to wear the red jersey,” Carapaz said. “It’s important for our team and everyone is motivated. On Sunday, it was cold and rainy, and that made the differences. We have a team here to defend the jersey, and we’ll be working to keep the jersey all the way to Madrid.”
The Vuelta’s full peloton resumed Tuesday for the 159km seventh stage from Vitoria to Villanueva de Valdegovia following rest-day health controls. No one tested positive in nearly 700 PCR tests for COVID-19.