With less than a month remaining before the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, Movistar’s Adriano Malori dealt a psychological blow to the other time trial when he beat three-time World Champion Tony Martin Thursday in the stage 4 time trial and the Tour du Poitou-Charentes in France.
Malori covered the 23.2km rain-soaked course in 27:49, four seconds ahead of Martin, who is coming back from a severely broken collarbone suffered in the Tour de France. Malori's teammate Jonathan Castroviejo finished in second place, three seconds ahead of Martin, who took the race lead by 37 seconds over Malori.
"I've spent a lot of time on the TT bike during the last few weeks, thinking about the Worlds, and I knew that my legs were getting better and better," Malori said. "But having Tony Martin racing here made it really difficult for us to aspire to the win.
"Many times, when he's into the startlist we all race for second place, but today I really felt fantastic. It wasn't a big margin for the win, but it was enough, and I'm super happy to have claimed this success and beating Martin, arguably the world's top time trialist, just one month away from the Worlds - it's so special."
Malori lost crucial time during stage 2 after failing to make the front group as the race broke into echelons. Martin made the front group and so was positioned to move into the race leader's jersey with his podium performance in the time trial.
"Etixx and Lotto attacked into the crosswinds," Malori said of stage 2. "We all were riding further back into the bunch and I'm still angry about that, but this victory and the excellent result by the whole team eases off that feeling.
"Tomorrow? I don't think it will be possible to beat Martin and Etixx in the GC; they've got a strong team and tomorrow's stage, despite that short, steep climb into the circuit, isn't anywhere near to what we'd need for a serious attack. I think we must remain happy with this win."
Adriano Malori (Movistar) is gunning for the UCI Road World Championships Time Trial in September.
Cummings comes close to second Grand Tour win
Cummings made it into a five-rider escape group that eventually built a four-minute lead during the stage 6 route from Córdoba to Sierra de Cazorla. With several breakaway riders sitting dangerously close to the GC lead, the leash didn't get stretched too far, and it was down to just 30 seconds with 12km to go.
Cummings attacked the group and forged on ahead solo, rebuilding the lead to 55 seconds before fireworks in the peloton brought him back into the fold. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) caught Cummings and flew past the British rider on his way to the stage win and overall race lead.
Cummings eventually finished the stage 73rd, more than three minutes behind the winner having almost come to a complete stop once he was caught.
"It was hot out there but it was good," Cummings said. "The start was quite aggressive and the breakaway took a long time to go as there was a lot of interest in making the break.
"We did well, everyone was covering the moves and eventually it went after about 60 or 70 kilometres. It was difficult because [Cyril] Gautier was up 3 minutes on GC, so we didn't really get the advantage we needed.
"For me it was then just a question of eating and drinking and hoping we would be allowed a bit more leeway, but we didn't really get enough. In the final I gave it a try, hoping to catch them napping or that there was a bit of disorganised chaos behind, but it was still good. We can try again in a few days' time."
Steven Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) attacks during stage 6
Majka improving as Vuelta a España heats up
As Vuelta a España hit temperatures near 45 Celsius during the final kilometres of stage 6 Thursday in Sierra de Cazorla, Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan surged to the front briefly before fading over the final 3km climb to the finish, where Orica-GreenEdge's Esteban Chaves took a second stage win and the overall lead.
Sagan eventually finished 95th, more than five minutes down on Chaves, but the team's declared leader for the Vuelta, Rafal Majka, hung in for eighth on the day, 11 seconds off the leader and is currently 16th overall, 1:29 down.
"I feel I can be satisfied with the result, as the squad positioned me perfectly prior to the final climb," Majka said. "I am sure a lot of riders must have suffered today from the scorching heat. Tomorrow it will even be harder since the climb is longer."
At 16th overall, Majka is positioned behind – but within striking distance of – GC rivals like Alejandro Valverde [49 seconds in arrears], Chris Froome [55 seconds], Nario Quintana [57 seconds], Fabio Aru [1:09], Mikel Landa [1:12] and Tejay van Garderen [1:16].
The Vuelta is Majka's first race since finishing 28th overall at the Tour de France, and he says he's been feeling better every day as the race heads into the high mountains later this week.
"I felt in better shape today but we have to be cautious," Majka said of his general classification hopes. "The Vuelta is still long way from finishing. I am close to the GC leaders, I haven't lost a lot of time and in my opinion the last week will be critical, although it's still too early."
Team director Tristan Hoffman said the team is encouraged by Majka's improving form.
"He made one move in the finale and he was never in trouble," Hoffman said. "We are glad to see this sign as we enter some tough days starting tomorrow. The boys kept him at the front of the field before the final climb today, and other than that our focus was on saving energy, eating and drinking, drinking and drinking to avoid dehydration."
Guillaume Martin wins stage 5 of the Tour de L'Avenir as Gregor Mühlberger moves into yellow
Guillaume Martin, the 2015 U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion, soloed to stage 5 victory at the Tour de l'Avenir to take France's first win of the race but fell three seconds short of moving into the race leader's yellow jersey. Martin finished the first mountain stage of the race six seconds ahead of Gregor Mühlberger (Austria) after the duo had ridden away from the peloton on the road to La Rosière-Montvalezan.
Jérémy Maison had launched a long range attack to draw out Martin and Italy's Gianni Moscon to form a select front group before he crashed and broke his collarbone. Several riders made the bridge across to the group before Martin attacked for the stage victory. Mühlberger, a stagiaire with Bora-Argon 18, was reportedly directed off course in the finale but did enough to move into the overall lead as Jose Luis Rodriguez (Chile) dropped from first overall to 29th overall. With two stages to race, Mühlberger leads Martin by three seconds and Movistar's Marc Soler by 36 seconds.
Great Britain's Alex Peters currently sits 25th overall but is looking to make his mark on the race in the two remaining stages. You can read a profile of the 21-year-old by clicking here.