One of the most drawn-out and exciting battles for a stage win on this year’s Grand Tours culminated with the same rider raising his arms in victory for a third time at the Vuelta a España. But Magnus Cort recognised that without the contribution of EF Education-Nippo teammate Lawson Craddock, that win might never have happened.
Cort proved the fastest at Monforte de Lemos of the group of seven that powered across the line a mere 18 seconds ahead of the bunch after a chase lasting for all but six kilometres of the very hilly 191-kilometre stage.
For the Dane, this was his third stage win of the 2021 Vuelta, after successfully fending off Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) for a first-week uphill stage win in Cullera and then ambushing a Team BikeExchange-led front group of some 40 riders at Cordoba in the second.
But as Cort put it afterwards, he was extremely fortunate to have had Craddock there with him in the group of seven for more than one reason.
“Lawson pulled hard and kept the speed high for many kilometres, and he also kept it going in the last kilometre when usually it’s hard to keep things working together in a group. But that way nobody could attack,” Cort pointed out.
“I found a good wheel behind Quinn Simmons [Trek-Segafredo] in the last corner with 300 metres to go and from there he launched his sprint a little bit early and I could go for it off his wheel. So that was pretty much perfect.
“So I have to thank Lawson, because I could not have taken this victory without him in the breakaway as well today.”
The Dane also paid tribute to Juanma Garate, EF Education-Nippo’s sports director in the race, who was behind the break for most of the stage.
“He was definitely very excited, in the last 10 kilometres he had the radio button pushed in almost the whole time, pushing us on and telling us ‘go, go, go',” Cort recounted.
“So we could really feel he wanted this and he did a great job telling us what was coming up, all the details on the stage, so we knew what to do.”
As for which of the three wins felt the most special, the Dane said: “The short answer is all of them. But the one on top of the hill, with Roglič coming up behind, and now today, they’re both great. I can’t believe it, it feels like a dream and I just hope I don’t wake up!”
Cort’s curious but impressive record of taking a stage victory in each of the three different weeks of the Vuelta is a feat only matched by Roglič this year, while Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) also has three wins, with two taken in the opening leg of the race.
It also all but culminates what has been a hugely successful turnaround for EF Education-Nippo in the 2021 Vuelta after losing their man for the overall, Hugh Carthy, in the first week.
Last but not least, it also means the Dane has singlehandedly taken as many stage wins as the team managed in the 2020 Vuelta through Carthy, Mike Woods and Cort himself at Ciudad Rodrigo.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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