When the wind blows, anything can happen.
After all the talk and hope of crosswinds during the first week of the Vuelta a España, they finally appeared. Though it didn’t blow a huge hole in the GC battle on stage 6, the gusts took some victims, as did the road up the Alto de la Montaña de Cullera.
Kenny Elissonde gave up the race lead after a day spent in red, while Primož Roglič looked comfortable once again as he romped back into the red jersey and stole a few extra seconds on his nearest rivals.
The Slovenian jumped out of what remained of the group of favorites with 200 meters to go and looked like he might take a second stage win in a week only to be held off by a determined Magnus Cort Nielson.
Roglič still got a nice six-second bonus for his troubles, while pinching four seconds from Enric Mas and Aleksandr Vlasov, and eight on Egan Bernal. With the second major mountain stage to Balcón de Alicante coming Friday, the Jumbo-Visma leader has a 25-second lead on Mas and 41 seconds on Bernal.
“No, not at all,” Roglič said when asked if he was disappointed not to win the stage. “Magnus was just stronger, and he had really good legs, so he definitely deserved to win. For myself, it was not so much about the win, I just tried to stay safe and tried to enjoy it a little bit… In the end, I had good legs, I did a little sprint.
“At the end, it’s not easy having the red jersey but it is how it is, we have to go with it. It’s not the first time. I will try to do the best for the next [few] days.”
After a roller-coaster summer, Roglič appears particularly relaxed at the Vuelta a España and he even let out a short giggle during his post-stage TV interview.
A GC shake-up
While the wind didn’t cause the complete chaos that some may have hoped, the gaps and subsequent chasing made for a much harder stage that drained the energy of some of the overall favorites.
Though Bernal was ultimately able to limit his losses to Roglič, his Ineos Grenadiers teammates Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz suffered a bit more. The duo lost 25 and 27 seconds respectively, making it more likely that Bernal will move into sole leadership of the team in the coming days.
Mikel Landa finished alongside Carapaz, as he continues to ride an uncharacteristically quiet race. Perhaps he’s not feeling at this point or he’s biding his time until the bigger mountain tests, but the deficit is building up for the Bahrain-Victorious rider.
Having lost a hatful of time Wednesday, Romain Bardet gave away another 13 minutes as he looks to save some energy for some stage hunting later in the race.
Of the GC men remaining in the fight, the biggest loser of the day was Hugh Carthy. As his teammate Magnus Cort Nielson soared to victory, Carthy had to battle hard with the windy conditions.
3e de la dernière Vuelta, Hugh Carthy est au plus mal derrière le peloton. Une nouvelle accélération du peloton a raison du Britannique à 12km de l'arrivée. L'échappée n'a plus que 1'10" d'avance. #LaVuelta21 pic.twitter.com/Jn8Kp0a3ZX
— Le Gruppetto (@LeGruppetto) August 19, 2021
The Preston-born rider lost touch with the bunch and spent several kilometers dangling off the rear of it as his teammates tried to guide him back on. He did eventually make it back on, but it took an almighty effort that left Carthy lacking on the final ascent.
Having already given away time on the first summit finish on stage 3, Carthy shed nearly three minutes on the rise to the line. He is now 4:28 behind Roglič in the overall standings.
Just three seconds behind the EF Education-Nippo rider is the former red jersey wearer Elissonde. The Frenchman was another that was caught out by the late gusts of wind and had to burn some much-needed energy getting back into the main group.
He saw the writing on the wall early on during the final ascent and decided to cut his losses and save himself for a tilt at some stage wins over the coming days.
“At the bottom of the climb, I quickly understood with five seconds over Roglič I preferred to completely sit up and have a chance this weekend to go in the breakaway,” Elissonde said. “Rather than go full gas and be at 40 or 30 seconds and then not have the ticket to go in the break. I thought I would save it completely as I was not going to make it.
“Now, I am 4:25 [behind] so maybe I will have a chance to go in the breakaway and have a go tomorrow. I think it was the smartest thing to do. We have Giulio for the GC. I really enjoyed [the day in red], it was really special.”
The GC standings
- Primož Roglič 21:04:49
- Enric Mas +0:25
- Miguel Ángel Lopez +0:36
- Alejandro Valverde +0:41
- Egan Bernal
- Aleksandr Vlasov +0:53
- Giulio Ciccone +0:58
- Lilian Calmejane +1:04
- Mikel Landa +1:12
- Fabio Aru +1:17
- Adam Yates +1:22
- Richard Carapaz +2:18
- Hugh Carthy +4:28