The EF Pro Cycling team claimed its third stage win of the 2020 Vuelta a España on Friday, with Danish rider Magnus Cort powering to victory in Ciudad Rodrigo from a much-reduced leading group over race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) crossed the line in third but was relegated for irregular sprinting, with Dion Smith (Mitchelton-Scott) rounding out the stage podium.
"I think I timed my sprint pretty well. I came from the last corner in a decent position, not too far away from the front. Then I sat there looking for an opening, and I found that with about 200 metres to go, maybe a little less, and from there I went with everything that I had," Cort said.
It was Cort's second win of the coronavirus-reduced season, having taken his first stage win for the team in the Etoile de Bessèges in February before the racing ground to a halt.
When asked how the intervening nine months have gone, Cort revealed that he had contracted COVID-19 and only resumed training three weeks before the Vuelta.
"I think the last nine months have been difficult for everyone this year, it means a lot coming back and winning. I was coming into good form when we came back after the long break, but then I caught the coronavirus myself and I was out," Cort said in the post-race interview. "So I have only been training for three weeks before coming here to this race, and it's really nice to get the victory here."
The 27-year-old tested positive for the virus on September 13 while racing Tirreno-Adriatico and was forced to go into quarantine rather than finish the race.
On stage 16 of the Vuelta a España on Friday, Cort said he was focussed on protecting teammate Hugh Carthy - winner of the stage on the Angliru - who is third in the general classification, and hadn't even thought about winning the stage until he got over the last climb, the 11.8km-long Puerto el Robledo.
"Starting today I hadn't even thought about winning this stage. I thought it would be a more reduced bunch coming in, and I was helping Hugh out, and suddenly I could see my chance to get over the first-category climb with about 25 to 35 kilometres to go," Cort said, "and although it wasn't that much of a reduced group, I knew there weren't many guys faster than me. There was still [Remi] Cavagna out front, but there were a lot of teams wanting it to come back together."
Cort's teammate Michael Woods, who won stage 7 to Villanueva de Valdegovia, said Cort is "such a classy bike rider" and "it was just a classy win."
"He always gives 100 per cent for all his teammates and has been crucial to my wins this year, even on stage 7 he was there in the break with me, so it's just awesome that he can get a win as well. We've got a big day ahead tomorrow, but Hugh's ready," Woods said.
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