Vuelta a Espana: King conquers La Covatilla

Ben King (Dimension Data) claimed a second stage success at the 2018 Vuelta a España, winning solo at La Covatilla on the first hors-categorie summit finish of the race.

The American, who won atop the Puerto de Alfacar on stage 4, attacked from an 11-rider breakaway some 10km ahead of the final climb to the ski resort in western Spain, and held his lead all the way to the top despite a spirited chase from Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

Starting the climb 1:30 down, Mollema himself dropped the remnants of the break and clawed his way back to within 15 seconds of a seemingly ailing King. However, in a dramatic twist, the gradients eased in the final couple of kilometres and the Dimension Data rider pulled away once more, a look of disbelief spreading across his face as he raised his arms aloft for the second time in what has been an extraordinary week.

“To get one stage win was a dream come true," King said. "I made winning a Grand Tour stage a major career goal, so today was really nice to show that first one wasn’t a random thing.

“I’ve never suffered that much in my entire life, I’m still a little foggy in my mind, but I’m sure it will sink in soon what an accomplishment this is.”

Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) placed a distant third on the stage, just ahead of the GC contenders, who bided their time for much of the final climb but nevertheless burst to life in the exposed final couple of kilometres.

The red jersey, as widely expected, changed hands as Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) was dropped early on the final climb.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who’d started the day fourth overall, is the new leader after finishing ninth, but the Briton - despite surpassing Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Molard - actually lost time to his direct rivals.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) finished fourth, as best of the overall contenders, as he jumped aboard a late attack initiated by Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, on the same time. Rigoberto Urán (EF-Drapac) and Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) had joined that trio to make it a group of five but lost a few seconds in sight of the line.

Yates missed the move initially but burst away from the rest of the pack to limit the damage to nine seconds, and in doing so moved into the red leader’s jersey, just a solitary second ahead of Valverde, with Quintana now third at 14 seconds.

George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) rounded out the top 10 on the stage, 13 seconds down on Yates, while Valverde followed a few seconds later in a group with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale), and - a couple of seconds behind - Buchmann.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) was next in but ceded 40 seconds to the leading GC riders in what was another disappointing day for the Italian. The same went for Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), who was 12 seconds behind Aru. It was a bad day, too, for Team Sky; David de la Cruz finished with Meintjes, while Kwiatkowski lost a further minute and fell out of the top 10, that question of whether he should be considered a GC contender seemingly given a definitive answer. 

The break goes all the way

As the peloton made its way through the neutral zone - with a lengthy delay due to a Peter Sagan puncture - plenty of riders were nudging up alongside the race director’s car, eager to go on the attack once the flag dropped.

In the end, the breakaway formed with a minimum of fuss. Luis Angel Maté (Cofidis) was the first one to go, aware of the chance to increase his lead in the mountains classification, while Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), one of the keenest noses, helped drive it away. As well as King, Mollema, and Teuns, the rest of the representatives were: Kennth Van Bilsen (Cofidis), Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin), Tom Leezer (LottoNL-Jumbo), Luis Mas (Caja Rural), Aritz Bagues (Euskadi-Murias), and Jesus Ezquerra (Burgos-BH).

With King the best-placed rider overall, at 6:34, FDJ controlled the peloton and kept the gap at four minutes by the time of the first climb of the day, the Category-1 Puerto del Pico. Maté sprinted for the KOM points at the top and went on to successfully the same as the Category-3 Alto de Gredos and the Category-2 Puerto de Peña Negra followed in quick succession to make it a tough first half of the 200km parcours.

After a fast descent, there were 60km of undulating roads to negotiate before the final climb, and that’s where the balance swung in favour of the break. FDJ received no help from other teams, and the gap began to yawn out towards the 10-minute mark as the 11 leaders went all-in.

With around 30km to go Team Sky appeared on the front of the peloton and lifted the pace, and that was the cue for De Gendt to attack and weed out the dead wood. Only King, Mollema, Mas, Teuns, and Hollenstein - and eventually Maté - were able to follow, and there were seven left out front.

The seeds of King’s victory were sewn when he followed an attack from Mas with around 20km to go. He soon dropped the Spaniard through narrow, cobbled, and steep streets in the village of Candelario and continued his effort on the technical approach to the climb. It was a gamble, as others opted to conserve energy, but by the foot of the climb he had a lead of 1:30.

After some gentle early gradients it didn’t take long for Mollema to burst away and begin his pursuit of King, while the rest of the chasers fell away. It looked good for the Dutchman, who’d finished second on stage 5. His head was bobbing with the effort as the gradients hit double digits, but further ahead King was weaving across the road and the gap was steadily coming down.

With 5km to go, the gap was down to 30 seconds, but King dug in from that point and Mollema started to suffer. With 3km to go it was down to just 15 seconds but Mollema just couldn’t finish the job. He needed to make the catch before the last 2km as the flatter roads would tip the balance back in King’s favour, but he was never able to do so. The gap hung nail-bitingly at 20 seconds before King began to pull away again on the exposed mountaintop.

Mollema faded in the final kilometre, allowing King enough time to shake his head in disbelief before sitting up and celebrating as he crossed the line.

GC battle on La Covatilla

As the breakaway enjoyed some freedom at the head of the race, FDJ led the peloton on what was - despite the trio of early climbs - very much a procession to the final climb as far as the general classification contenders were concerned.

Astana, Movistar, and Sky had been the most prominent teams on the approach but it was Bora - with Buchmann third overall - who took the initiative on the climb itself through Rafal Majka. The Pole set a high tempo on the front as the group steadily declined in number. It didn’t take long for Molard to find himself in trouble, along with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) once again.

Majka led the way until the final few kilometres, by which point the GC group had been reduced to 20 riders, though without any major absentees - save perhaps for Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors). Sepp Kuss then took it up for LottoNL-Jumbo, with George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk both looking strong, but the attacks were reserved for the final kilometre-and-a-half.

Just as King was crossing the line, Quintana produced an acceleration and although it was short-lived, it was soon followed by a more sustained effort from Kelderman. Quintana jumped right on it before Lopez, Uran, and Izaguirre made their way across to form a lead group of five.

Yates set off in pursuit but would never completely close the gap, losing nine seconds to Quintana. Bennett also set off on his own and rounded out the top 10 on the stage, finishing 13 seconds down on Yates.

Pinot led a mini chase group, from which Valverde sprang clear at the line. While they lost more than 20 seconds to Quintana and Lopez, the real disappointment was reserved for the likes of Aru, Meintjes, De la Cruz, and Kwiatkowski, as the riders came in the dribs and drabs.

La Covatilla had enjoyed big billing, and while it was a contained affair for the most part, the race did burst open in the final couple of kilometres, providing some important - if not yet decisive - developments ahead of the first rest day.


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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data5:30:38
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:00:48
3Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:02:38
4Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team0:02:40
5Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
6Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
7Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:02:43
8Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:02:46
9Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott0:02:49
10George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo0:03:02
11Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:04
12Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:03:05
13Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
14Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:03:08
16Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:03:20
17Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team0:03:29
18David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky0:03:32
19Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors
20Sepp Kuss (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo
21Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data
22Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana Pro Team
23Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:50
24Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:03:54
25Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky0:04:44
26Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
27Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
28Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:04:54
29Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
30Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida0:04:56
31Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
32Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
33Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:05:00
34Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:05:11
35Igor Anton (Spa) Dimension Data
36Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:05:40
37Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo0:05:46
38Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
39Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
40Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:06:23
41Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
42Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
43Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
44Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos BH0:06:55
45Daniel Moreno (Spa) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
46Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
47Jesus Ezquerra Muela (Spa) Burgos BH0:06:59
48Léo Vincent (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:07:36
49Edward Ravasi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:08:27
50Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates
51Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
52Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:09:12
53Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb
54Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:09:14
55Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:09:42
56Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
57Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team
58Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:10:21
59Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:49
60Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team0:11:08
61Aritz Bagues Kalparsoro (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:11:28
62Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team0:11:47
63Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:12:30
64Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
65Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
66Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data
67Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal
68Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team
69Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:12:56
70Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb0:12:58
71Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:14:09
72Thomas Leezer (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
73Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott0:14:29
74Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team
75Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky0:14:41
76Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal
77Joey Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing Team
78Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:15:04
79Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:15:29
80Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:15:40
81Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:16:09
82Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:17:43
83Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal
84Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
85Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky0:17:48
86Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Sky
87Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
88Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
89Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team0:18:13
90Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
91Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:18:56
92Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:20:20
93Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team Sunweb
94Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
95Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb
96Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
97Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:21:56
98Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team
99Jordi Simon Casulleras (Spa) Burgos BH
100Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
101Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing Team
102Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
103Antonio Molina Canet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
104Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
105Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
106Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
107Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
108Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky
109Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Floors
110Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
111Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
112Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
113Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
114Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky
115Jorge Cubero Galvez (Spa) Burgos BH
116Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb
117Georg Preidler (Aut) Groupama-FDJ
118Jetse Bol (Ned) Burgos BH
119Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension Data
120José Mendes (Por) Burgos BH
121Pablo Torres Muiño (Spa) Burgos BH
122Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
123Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo
124Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team
125Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar Team
126Diego Rubio Hernandez (Spa) Burgos BH
127Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
128José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
129Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
130Mickael Delage (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
131Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:22:24
132Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data0:22:52
133Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:23:01
134Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain-Merida0:23:08
135Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:23:11
136Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:23:48
137Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
138Ian Boswell (USA) Katusha-Alpecin0:24:41
139Hector Saez Benito (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
140Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
141Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin
142Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
143Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
144Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
145Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
146Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:25:01
147Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb0:25:23
148Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida0:25:34
149Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
150Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:25:46
151Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:26:00
152Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:26:19
153Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-Scott
154Lars Boom (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
155Loic Chetout (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:28:05
156Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
157Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:28:06
158Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:28:17
159Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ0:29:02
160Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:29:53
161Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
162Alex Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
163Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
164Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
165Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
166Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
167Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
168Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
169Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step Floors
170Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
171Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
172Nelson Andres Soto Martinez (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:31:33
173Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo
174Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:32:18
175Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
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Sprint 1 - Guijuelo - 149 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data4pts
2Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin2
3Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team1
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Finish Line Points
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data25pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo20
3Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team16
4Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team14
5Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team12
6Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb10
7Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale9
8Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida8
9Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott7
10George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo6
11Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team5
12Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ4
13Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo3
14Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale2
15Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe1
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KOM 1 - Puerto del Pico - 52.3 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits10pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo6
3Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data4
4Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal2
5Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA1
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KOM 2 - Alto de Gredos - 68.6 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits3pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo2
3Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data1
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KOM 3 - Puerto de Peña Negra - 98 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits5pts
2Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal3
3Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data1
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KOM 4 - Alto de la Covatilla - 198.2 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data15pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo10
3Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team6
4Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team4
5Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team2
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Most Combative
#Rider Name (Country) Team
1Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Team Dimension Data16:40:37
2Movistar Team16:41:07
3Team Lotto Nl - Jumbo16:41:33
4Bahrain - Merida16:44:20
5Team Sky16:45:56
6Astana Pro Team16:47:48
7Team Ef Education First - Drapac P/B Cannondale16:48:27
8Groupama - Fdj16:48:58
9Caja Rural - Seguros Rga16:49:03
10Team Katusha Alpecin16:49:07
11Bora - Hansgrohe16:49:10
12Uae Team Emirates16:52:08
13Ag2R La Mondiale16:52:11
14Mitchelton - Scott16:53:56
15Euskadi Basque Country - Murias16:54:39
16Bmc Racing Team16:55:22
17Team Sunweb16:56:44
18Cofidis, Solutions Credits16:57:32
19Trek - Segafredo16:57:56
20Quick - Step Floors17:00:57
21Burgos Bh17:07:44
22Lotto Soudal17:09:26
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General Classification after stage 9
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott36:54:52
2Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:01
3Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team0:00:14
4Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:16
5Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:00:17
6Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:24
7Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team0:00:27
8Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:00:32
9Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:00:43
10George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo0:00:48
11Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:01:08
12Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors0:01:15
13David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky0:01:26
14Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb0:01:50
15Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky0:02:10
16Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:02:33