Omar Fraile's many solo kilometres off the front during stage 6 at the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday didn't pay off with a top result, but the 26-year-old Dimension Data rider's effort earned the stage's combativity prize.
The challenging 163km course from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra favoured breakaway success, so making it into the day's escape was no easy feat. After 50km of racing Fraile fought his way into an 11-rider group that finally snapped the elastic.
"It was a day for a breakaway and we wanted to be part of that," Fraile said. "It was not easy to get into it, though, as the pace at the beginning of the stage was very high. In the first climb the attack finally went, but with guys like [Alberto] Losada in there, who was not so far down on GC, the peloton didn't allow for a big gap."
Chasing from race leader Darwin Atapuma's BMC team kept the breakaway close throughout the day, and Orica-BikeExchange stepped up with 60km to go and began chewing into the lead.
When the gap was down to just under a minute with 55km to go, Fraile jumped away from the leaders and set out alone. The Basque rider led over the climb of Alto Alenza, extending his gap to more than three minutes with 45km to go, but a series of unclassified climbs on the run to the finish saw his gap evaporate.
Fraile was chased down by three of the original escapees with 20km to go, while a reduced peloton that included eventual stage winner Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExgchange) was not far behind. Yates countered an attack by Daniel Moreno (Movistar) in the final 4km, mopping up final breakaway survivor Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) on his way to the solo win.
"I spoke with our DS Alex Sans Vega, if it'd be okay to attack again, and so I went on the only categorized climb of the day," Fraile said. "I felt good and saw a chance to arrive solo. I got a gap, but in the end the other guys came back. That's racing, I guess, but I'll try again."
Fraile came in 65th on the day, 13:03 behind the winner, but his courageous effort off the front during one of the race's most challenging "transition" stages captured the jury's attention and earned a trip to the podium after all.