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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 29, 2021

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Vuelta a España stage 14 reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Romain Bardet's Team DSM:

After a hard day of racing in the mountains, Romain Bardet claimed Team DSM’s third win at the Vuelta a España in dazzling fashion – besting the rest of the breakaway atop Pico Villuercas.

Romain Bardet

Romain Bardet wins a big one. Sirotti photo

A weekend double header in the mountains got underway with a tough 165 kilometre long stage from Don Benito to Pico Villuercas this afternoon. Featuring several new climbs for the Vuelta, including the finish ascent, it was set to be an exciting day of racing.

From the flag drop there were multiple attacks at the front of the peloton, with the team riding well to make several early moves that were brought back on the flat terrain. Eventually the elastic snapped after some incredibly high speeds, and with help from the rest of the team, Romain Bardet made the front group of 18. With the peloton fanning across the road, the gap for Bardet’s breakaway increased quickly, continuing to extend as the kilometres ticked by and as they crested the first climb of the day with 80 kilometres to go it stood at ten minutes.

Leading the break over the brutally steep Alto Collado de Ballesteros, Bardet moved into the virtual lead of the King of the Mountains for the team, before the race plunged down the fast descent. Entering the rolling terrain ahead of the long climb to the finish, things became tactical in the breakaway and the attacks started with a duo forming out front at 40 kilometres to go. The tactical battle continued as the group headed towards the final climb, with new riders going clear. Bardet put in a softening attack at ten kilometres to go before settling back into the group, biding his time in the group and waiting for the right moment to attack; using all of his experience and guided by the team car behind.

On the steep slopes, Bardet launched a stinging attack at six and a half kilometres to go, leaving behind the chasers and bridging to those out front before going straight over the top of them, going solo. Not looking back for five kilometres, Bardet pushed the pedals on his Scott Addict RC all the way to the line, before sitting up and celebrating to take a momentous victory atop Pico Villuercas – Team DSM’s third stage win at the race so far. With the points picked up during the stage too, Bardet also moves into the lead of the KOM jersey, capping off a memorable day for him and the team.

“Honestly, I really took it climb by climb because we had the feeling no one really wanted to commit in the breakaway so I had a really hard time to catch the guys in front of us on the last climb,” expressed a smiling Bardet after the stage. “I think in the end we played it really smart with Matt, our coach, he told me exactly when to attack on the steepest and make it as if the finish was just there and it was a 200 metre race. I gave it a good go, I opened a gap and just committed to the finish.”

Bardet continued: “Everyone in the peloton is a bit tired but at the moment the spirit is also super high in the team. We already had two stage wins, multiple podiums with Alberto and everyone is really focused. I’m so happy to be part of such a good team. We’re really enjoying ourselves and try to do our best every day and I’m so happy to take a stage win for the team. It’s been a really good Vuelta for us so far and we’ll keep trying for more.”

Team DSM coach Matt Winston added: “Romain made it into a really nice breakaway for us and the gap grew out quickly. There were quite a few attacks going into the finish but we just waited. We tried to stay calm in that moment and just pick our moments where we could really make a difference. Romain was being heavily marked so we really had to also use the parcours and Romain’s strengths to make that difference. We did a really good job there and it’s nice to get our third victory of the Vuelta. There are a lot of people in the team working hard on and off the bike who really deserve the credit for the performances here in Spain.”

Here's the report From GC leader Odd Christian Eiking's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team:

The battle for the defense of Odd Christian Eiking’s leader’s jersey took another twist this Saturday during the fourteenth stage of the Tour of Spain (2.WT, 14/08-5/09). The riders were confronted to a finish on top of the Pico Villuercas (14.4 km at 6.3%), after the Puerto Berzocana (7.7 km at 5.8%) and the Puerto Collado de Ballesteros, (2.9 km at 13%).

In addition to the difficulty of the parcours, the heat persisted in this Vuelta, with 34 degrees at the start in Don Benito. After ten kilometer there was a breakaway of eighteen riders, with the best placed rider in the general classification 45 minutes behind Eiking. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux gave freedom to the leaders, who understood that they were racing for the stage win.

Eiking was well surrounded on all climbs and approached the final climb in a peloton of around 30 riders with Jan Hirt, Simone Petilli, Rein Taaramäe and Louis Meintjes. His main contender in the general classification, Guillaume Martin, tried to escape halfway, but was followed by Louis Meintjes and caught a little later by the group where Jumbo Visma rode a strong pace. Eiking showed an admirable resistance and could rely on the help of his roommate Taaramäe, who wore the red jersey one week ago.

Odd Christian Eiking

Odd Christian Eiking (in red jersey) making his way up the final climb. Sirotti photo

The Norwegian rider conceded 20 seconds to Primoz Roglic and 4 to Martin and crossed the line knowing  that he would stay the race leader for a fifth day in a row. Meintjes also defended his 14th place in the general classification. This Saturday, the peloton will go to the heights of Castilla y Leon to climb four ‘Puertos’ and finish after a slight downhill of the final climb, the Puerto San Juan de Nava.

"The race was controlled during a major part of the day and I hoped that it would continue on the final climb. In the end, I suffered a lot. The slopes weren't very steep and there was a strong headwind, so I took a risk by hiding in the slipstream as good as possible. Guillaume Martin attacked but I knew that he had to battle against the wind. When we arrived inside the final 3 kilometer, I knew that I would stay the race leader for another day. Tomorrow? Keeping the jersey one more day is possible but it will depend on how my competitors make use of the parcours." - Odd Christian Eiking

Here's the report from fourth-place Thomas Pidcock's INEOS Grenadiers team:

Tom Pidcock put in a battling performance in the break to finish fourth, as the general classification contenders kept their powder dry on stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana

Pidcock sealed his best Grand Tour result to date after fighting to the line on the final climb to finish in a chase group behind stage winner Romain Bardet (Team DSM)

Thomas Pidcock

Thomas Pidcock leads a small group up the final ascent. Sirotti photo

Behind, there were small splits in the GC group on the final climb to as Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) attacked to gain a small advantage on his rivals, with Egan Bernal finishing four seconds back and Adam Yates (+16”) close behind.

Earlier on in the stage, the battle to get into the early break was hotly contested as Pidcock fought to make the 18 rider group which quickly amassed a large lead.

With an unassailable advantage over the bunch established, the attacks from within the group began in earnest on the Alto Collado de Ballesteros, which saw Pidcock distanced, but the 22 year old paced his way back to the group shortly afterwards.

There were several other attempts to go clear, but only Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën Team) had any success, leading the break onto the final ascent with Pidcock's smaller chase group a minute behind.

With little co-operation amongst the eight chasers, the Grenadier attacked the group with seven kilometres remaining, but was reeled back in. Several other efforts followed, with only Bardet able to make his move stick, meaning he took the stage victory as Pidcock fought to the finish to secure fourth.

Unfortunately, during the stage, Richard Carapaz had to withdraw from the race.

Egan Bernal:
"I felt a little better. It was a strange climb, it was hard but at the same time it helped a lot to follow wheels. I'm happy because I was able to get there with the other GC contenders, so far it's my best day. I think it has been quite tough.

"You have to be calm and calculate the effort, because there was also a lot of wind and where does one go when there are five Jumbo pulling. You just have to be realistic, when you are not there, you are not there. But today I felt relatively good. Tomorrow will be another type of stage and the last stages are also tough, so we will have to wait.”

And here's the report from Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic remains third in the general classification after the 14th stage of the Vuelta. Attacks were almost impossible, partly because of the firm control of Team Jumbo-Visma. Only Miguel Ángel López won a few seconds on the Slovenian rider.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic (shown winning stage 11) remains in third place. Sirotti photo

During the flat opening phase eighteen riders formed a leading group. The lead soon grew to ten minutes, which made for a two-rider battle. The classification riders kept their cool until the last climb towards Pico Villuercas. Miguel Ángel López attacked in the final kilometres and took a handful of seconds. Primoz Roglic showed his strong form by almost closing the initial gap of twenty seconds in the final kilometre. With this effort, the 31-year-old leader of Team Jumbo-Visma took twenty seconds back on classification leader Eiking.

Sam Oomen was surprised by the course. “We had expected a bigger fight for the lead. The second climb was very tough, but nothing crazy happened there. Then we kept everything under control as much as possible until the finish. We expected it to be worse in the end, but it didn’t happen. Only López attacked in the final. The team did a perfect lead-out today, so we didn’t have to shift on climbs and descents. That way you save energy.”

“It was a fast last climb with a lot of wind”, Sepp Kuss said. “The team was excellent, and we rode our own pace. The second climb of the day was not as decisive as I thought. We knew we would just ride at a tight pace if someone attacked. We managed to do that.”

Sports director Addy Engels put the time loss on López into perspective. “I think such slight time differences at the finish don’t mean that much. It was a very good day for us. The team was alert when the course became dangerous. We took control to be safe. On the final climb it was pretty quiet and I think Primoz looked good. Of course it’s nice that he decreases the gap of twenty seconds to a few seconds. I think he was fine with it.”

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