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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 11: David Gaudu wins from break as GC contenders hit stalemate

Young Frenchman beat Marc Soler from two-up sprint atop the Farrapona, Primoz Roglič retains red jersey after crossing line with Richard Carapaz and Dan Martin.

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David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ) sprinted clear from Marc Soler (Movistar) in the final 200 meters of the Alto de la Farrapona to take stage 11 of the Vuelta a España on Saturday.

The GC contenders came to the line together, 1:03 back.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) had attacked the GC group in the final stretch of the Asturian summit finish to try to snatch seconds in the red jersey battle. However, the Irishman was marked out by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), meaning there was no change in the standings in the top-3 on the classification, with Roglič retaining the race lead.

Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) finished a handful of seconds behind the Roglič group to hang on to fourth place overall. The major change in the classification was Soler’s vault from tenth up to sixth overall having finished second on the stage.

The GC battle will resume Sunday with a summit finish atop the fearsome Angliru climb. Roglič and Carapaz remain dead-level on time, with Martin and Carthy not far behind.

Gaudu’s victory was the biggest in his career to date. The 24-year-old has long been marked out as a new French hope yet had failed to register a major result. Having abandoned this summer’s Tour de France on stage 16 and with Thibaut Pinot abandoning this Vuelta early in the race, Gaudu had his big opportunity.

“At the start of the day I wasn’t feeling very good,” Gaudu said after the stage. “But to win a stage like this, it’s huge for me.”

“It was such a relief … The team has been a bit glum,” he continued. “It’s been a tough period for us. We didn’t have a good Tour de France because of the lack of climbers at the Tour. Thibaut quit so we’ve been trying to stick together and hold onto our belief.”

Though Gaudu is the best-placed of his team on GC at 12th overall, his stage win ensures the squad comes away from the race with something to boost morale.

The stage was the first of two back-to-back multi-mountain days in the steep climbs of the Asturias, finishing on the long haul to the Alto de Farrapona.

The day started off with a brief rider protest as Chris Froome lead arguments against the race organizer’s awarding of time gaps on stage 10. The race jury changed the method in which time gaps were judged late in the stage Friday, a decision which wiped Carapaz’s slender GC lead over Roglič to leave the pair level on time heading into Saturday’s stage.

Once the peloton had rolled out after a 10-minute delay due to the protest, it took over 60km for the race to settle. Two breakaway groups went away and then merged in the first hour before being caught by the peloton as Cofidis cranked the pace for Guillaume Martin, who started the day in the polka dot jersey.

The relentless pace over the first few hours saw Ineos Grenadiers riders Ivan Sosa and Chris Froome distanced early only to scramble their way back as the pace eased when the break of eight finally went clear with around 100km to go.

The group of Gaudu, Guillaume Martin, Mark Donovan, Michael Storer (both Sunweb), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) held around two minutes going into the steep 10-kilometer climb of the Cobertoria, which fell mid-way in the stage. Soler bridged across to the escapees midway up the ascent as Wellens fell off the pace to drop into the peloton.

The group held over 3 minutes going into the penultimate climb of the Puerto de San Lorenzo and continued to climb well through the cat.1 mountain, while behind, Jumbo-Visma began motoring.

Midway into the 20-kilometer long summit finish to the Farrapona, the breakaway began to split as Soler and Gaudu drove the pace, leaving only Martin and Sunweb pair Donovan and Storer with them.

A number of Jumbo-Visma riders continued to lead the GC group, cutting the break’s gap to around two minutes as Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton Scott) dropped off. Soler kicked off the action in the breakaway, punching ahead with 5km to go as Gaudu followed his wheel. Soler looked the most aggressive of the pair as Storer chased around 45 seconds back, before Donovan hauled himself back to his Australian teammate.

Going into the 11 percent slopes of the final 2km, Gaudu led the two at the front of the race as Soler began to look like he was suffering.

Sepp Kuss and George Bennett began pulling in the peloton behind for Jumbo-Visma as the GC group thinned. Carapaz looked isolated from his teammates as he, Carthy and Dan Martin hugged Roglič’s wheel.

The Dutch squad’s stranglehold on the group was only broken by Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), who launched clear with 800 meters to go. With the Russian well down on GC, he was left free to ride ahead of the main group.

Soler and Gaudu began cat-and-mousing in the final kilometer as the Frenchman looked unwilling to let the Movistar man hug his wheel.

It all came down to a sprint for the stage as the pair remained locked together. Gaudu accelerated with 150 meters remaining and instantly gapped Soler. The young Frenchman continued to build his lead through the steep ramp to the lin to take victory by around 30 meters, screaming with joy.

Back in the GC group, Martin launched an acceleration in the final 500 meters, only to be marked by Enric Mas (Movistar), Carapaz and Roglic. The quartet crossed the line together, with Carthy a few seconds behind them.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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