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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 6: Jay Vine conquers the rainy conditions to win, Remco Evenepoel in red

The Australian fends off a chase from Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas, who make time on all the other GC contenders.

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Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) clocked up the first win of his professional career on stage 6 of the Vuelta a España, attacking on the final climb and fending off a chase by Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Enric Mas (Movistar).

The Australian reached the mist-shrouded summit of the Ascensión al Pico Jano climb 15 seconds clear of Evenepoel and a further second ahead of Mas, with Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) best of the rest at 55 seconds.

Defending race champion Primož Roglič was under par on a wet, tricky day and led in a big group of chasers for fifth, 1:37 in arrears.

The race’s first big summit finish completely reshuffled the general classification. Evenepoel seized the red jersey through his efforts, 21 seconds ahead of overnight leader Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ). Mas is seven seconds further back while Roglič’s pre-stage advantage over his rivals has been transformed into a 1:01 deficit to the maillot rojo.

Ayuso and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) are next in the overall standings, while Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) both lost time and slipped back to 14th and 19th overall respectively.

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The stage saw a 10-man breakaway go clear almost immediately after the start and open a lead of over five minutes. Mark Padun (EF Education-EasyPost) attacked this group on the day’s second of three climbs, the category one Collada de Brenes, and went over the summit over a minute clear of his closest chaser.

He struggled on the wet descent, though, and had a much smaller advantage starting the last climb. Vine caught and passed him, with the other big guns doing likewise. Further back, Molard had been dropped on the day’s second of three climbs and cracked again on the final ascent, eventually crossing the line 5:06 back and slipping to second overall.

It was the first of many days in the big mountains but it was nevertheless very decisive.

Vine came to the pro peloton via an unusual route, earning his initial contract with the-then Alpecin-Fenix team by winning the 2020 Zwift Academy. He made his grand tour debut in last year’s Vuelta, being caught in the final kilometer of stage 12 as the last survivor of the day’s break. He then became the UCI’s esports world champion in February.

“It is almost unreal,” he said. “There were so many Ks to go, I missed the break, I got a flat tire in the first five Ks. And even though it was still the team’s plan if it came back together for me to go on the final climb, it was unreal to be able to do that. And to do that from the GC group is incredible.

“I have been working towards this all year after last year, coming so close. It is a dream come true.”

Vine made his move when stage leader Mark Padun was 1:10 ahead with 10.2km left. He went clear with Davide Villella (Cofidis) and Elie Gesbert (Arkea Samsic) before dropping them.

“I knew that Padun was still up the road and if I was going to close down the gap I had to go from long,” he explained. “It was planned that I had 13 minutes [deficit] on GC so that no one would care if I went. I was able to manage my effort and just pace the climb pretty handily.

“This is for my wife, who has basically just done everything for me for the last three or four years just to get me to this point. I guess it is time for me to get a Corvette now.”

A big day under bad conditions

Stage six was the first high mountain day of the race so far and also the toughest stage yet. The 181.2km race from Bilbao to the Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo had three climbs but began humanely enough with an undulating opening hour and a half.

This was then followed by the second category Puerto de Alisas and the category one Collada de Brenes. Soon after the day’s intermediate sprint came the final climb, the Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo.

At 12.6km and 6.5 percent average gradient, featuring three stretches of 11 percent or over, it was hard enough to put the GC contenders under pressure.

Ten riders went clear after 14 kilometers of racing. Those in the break were Padun, Ruben Fernandez (Cofidis), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco), Marco Brenner (Team DSM), Dario Cataldo (Trek-Segafredo), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Of those, Bakelandts was best overall, 5:02 back.

The bunch wasn’t worried and the 10 leaders were 5:14 ahead starting the Puerto de Alisas after nearly 78km of racing. That gap put Bakelants into the virtual race lead, but Groupama-FDJ was on the front and limiting the gains.

Ineos Grenadiers later began driving the pace and this hewed the lead down to just 1:46 by the day’s second climb. There had been several crashes on wet roads beforehand, including a nasty-looking spill that left Carl Fredrik Hagen (Israel Premier Tech) in clear pain with his shoulder.

Padun launches his bid before Vine makes his move

Out front, Padun rode clear of the others in the break with 40km to go, making his bid for success inside the final 5km of that climb. Masnada was best of the rest, and with 38km to go, he was 38 seconds back and chasing, but he was soon caught and dropped by Fernandez.

The bunch was just 2:02 behind and was reducing in size under the pressure of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. Julian Alaphilippe was working hard for Evenepoel, showing that his form is building in advance of this year’s worlds. The pressure caused overnight race leader Molard to be dropped.

Padun went over the summit 1:04 clear of Fernandez and 2:02 ahead of the peloton. The heavy rain made the descent quite dangerous and Padun, in particular, looked ill at ease on the wet downhill.

Masnada, who had caught Fernandez, was making steady gains and was just 25 seconds back with 25km to go. However, Padun was on flat ground again and looking more comfortable.

He raced through the intermediate sprint 32 seconds clear of Fernandez and Masnada and 50 seconds in front of the peloton. He began climbing again, and with 15km to go, he was 49 seconds ahead of the peloton, which had just caught the two chasers. Molard had managed to rejoin with the help of his team.

Sparks fly on the first big summit finish

As Padun’s gap hovered just over a minute with 10k to go, Villella, Gesbert, and Vine attacked the peloton. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) tried to jump clear but was followed by O’Connor and the rest. The acceleration petered out but reeled in all the chasers bar Vine, who was further ahead.

Evenepoel then launched and was marked by Roglič, Yates, and a select group of team leaders. Missing was Carapaz, who had already been dropped.

Evenepoel kept turning the screw, putting Roglič, Sivakov, and others into difficulty and drawing Mas clear. Ahead, Vine caught Padun with 6.7km remaining and immediately dropped him, as did Evenepoel and Mas soon afterward.

Vine was digging deep to try to fend off the chasers. He had 17 seconds with two kilometers remaining and actually increased that by two seconds heading under the kite, making certain of his win. Behind, Roglič was dragging a big group of chasers along, but it was too little too late and he and they ended up losing over a minute to Vine, Mas, and new race leader Evenepoel.

Final kilometer


Results will be available once stage has completed.

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