With his Vuelta a Espana GC hopes extinguished in Valencia, Romain Bardet went on the attack on stage 11 of the Spanish Grand Tour in search of the stage win. The Frenchman fell short in his bid but was rewarded for his effort with the combativity award.
Having lost over seven minutes on stage 6 to Sagunt, slipping from 12th to 31st, Bardet has slowly improved his GC position to sit 24th after the opening 11 stages. However, Bardet is looking to salvage his race with a stage win rather than focus on a top-25 GC result.
The Frenchman infiltrated the early break on the wet and cold 187.5km stage from Lorca to Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto.
"This was the sort of day that I love. I was at the front from the first kilometer, and managed to get into a strong breakaway after about 50km. I wanted to go as far as possible to win the stage. Unfortunately, the peloton decided otherwise," Bardet reflected.
On the final climb to Calar Alto, Bardet rolled the dice to chase the stage win as the Sky, Orica-Scott and Bahrain-Merida controlled peloton continued to trim the gap to the breakaway. It appeared that Bardet and Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) would be battling it out for the stage win. An attack from Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) in the GC bunch further reduced the lead of the duo who started to started to struggle.
With the GC group catching Bardet with 7km to go, the Frenchman stayed with the favourites and was able to lead Contador over the line 31 seconds down on stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and 17 seconds down on Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Wilco Kelderman.
"Nevertheless, I am convinced that there will be additional opportunities. At the end of the stage, I thought I could go for it again, but I was not holding all the cards," Bardet added. "I did my best, and I gave everything, so I have no regrets tonight. In spite of the difficult weather conditions, I really enjoyed today."
While Bardet will fight on for more stage opportunities in the remaining nine days, AG2R-La Mondiale will be without Domenico Pozzovivo who was forced to withdraw from the Vuelta.