Under sunny skies and in warm weather, Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was declared the winner of stage 9 of the 2020 Vuelta a España, when Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was relegated for shouldering Emīls Liepiņš (Trek-Segafred) to get into position before the final push.
“I’m really happy about this victory and also for my team, they did an awesome job today, they did it all from the front and I’m happy to give something back to them,” the German sprinter said. “It wasn’t a fair action from [Bennett],” said Ackermann. “I think, after all the crashes in the last week, we have to take care of the other guys.”
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) celebrated his 31st birthday in the green jersey and stayed safely in front of the peloton despite a bike change in the final 15km.
Overall leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) stayed out of harm’s way near the front of the group until the final few hundred meters.
The race leader said that, “In the end, it was a pretty calm day. We thought it could be nervous but there was no wind. We moved to the front to avoid any problems, overall it was a good day.”
How stage 9 unfolded
Aritz Bagües (Caja Rural) and Juan Felipe Osorio (Burgos-BH) escaped off the front and built a lead of 2:25 at 110km to go.
While moving through a small town at 105km to go, Ackermann and Héctor Sáez (Caja Rural) touched wheels and went down.
Sáez shattered his helmet and remained on the ground while Ackermann got up and got back into the race. Sáez followed just a few moments later, wearing new headgear.
Both riders were attended to by the medical car over the following 5km, as they made their way into the back of the peloton.
Another crash at 93km brought down Harry Tanfield and Dorian Godon (AG2R-La Mondiale), and James Piccoli (Israel Start-Up Nation) in a small town, but all got back onto the main group quickly with only Tanfield needing a bike change.
At 60km the two-man break had extended their lead to a maximum advantage of 3:15, but this was all they would get. Over the successive 30km, this advantage was chipped away by a motivated peloton, and by 30km to go, less than half a minute separated the two men from the peloton.
The two men in the break refused to abandon their lead and pushed out by an additional 15 seconds to a 45-second advantage at 25km to go.
This triggered the peloton to ratchet up the speed, quickly bringing the two men back into the group over the next 3km, as the sprinters’ teams wanted to get control on the front at 22km to go.
With just 13km remaining, Movistar and Bora-Hansgrohe patrolled the front of the race while Roglič got a new bike when he suffered a front flat, but teammate Robert Gesink quickly brought Roglič back into the peloton.
Bora-Hansgrohe brought Ackermann to the front with 7km to go, while Lotto-Soudal, Groupama-FDJ tailed them. On this cue, Ineos Grenadiers escorted Carapaz to the front to keep him safe.
While Bora-Hansgrohe controlled the race from 1.5km to the red kite, they towed Liepiņš and several other Trek-Segafredo riders along.
Bennett twice bumped shoulders with the Trek-Segafredo rider with less than 400m to go to keep his position near the front and stay away from the barriers, and this was the cause for some post-race review by the race commissaires.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s Michael Mørkøv brought Bennett to the front, in perfect position to launch a well-timed sprint.
While the big Irishman was clearly the first across the line, with Ackermann just on his wheel, this was not the final result for the day.
“It was a big fight, and we had some guys nearly put us into the barriers trying to take the wheel which was a bit sketchy but we stayed upright.”
After a prolonged review of the events in the final kilometer, the race jury relegated Bennett which promoted Ackermann into first place.
Ackermann considered what happened and said, “If there is no gap, we have to stop. I feel sorry for Sam, but they took me out in Scheldeprijs [for something similar] and now we have to ride more fairly.”