Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) won stage 16 of the Vuelta a España but Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was the centre of attention after attacking and then crashing in a breathless finale in Tomares.
Roglič accelerated clear of with 2.6km remaining on the gently climbing road towards the finish, bringing Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) and Pedersen with him.
Behind, red jersey Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) suffered a puncture, albeit just inside the final 3km, meaning that he would be handed the same time as the main peloton when the commissaires reviewed the finish.
Out in front, Roglič led the five-man move all the way through the finale in Tomares, dragging them into the finishing straight with eight seconds in hand on the bunch. However, what looked like a successful day’s work for Roglič took on a different guise in the closing metres, when he crashed heavily after a touch of wheels with Wright.
Roglič, though bloodied, was able to remount and cross the line, but he sat at the roadside in some distress after the finish. He was still there when Evenepoel came home almost three minutes later following his puncture, and the youngster went to check on Roglic before making his way to the podium.
After a wait, the commissaires confirmed that Evenepoel had been awarded the same time as the peloton, meaning that he limited his losses on Roglic to eight seconds. In the overall Vuelta standings, Evenepoel is now 1:26 ahead of Roglic, with Enric Mas (Movistar) third at 2:01.
“I wasn't in the best position because we did a recon of the final yesterday, and we felt the roads were slippery. I was scared, to be honest, in the last 4 or 5km so I lost some positions and I wanted to move up on a steep bump, but my rear wheel just went off. I felt I had a flat tyre,” Evenepoel said. “I'm happy that the 3km rule exists otherwise I would have lost a lot of time today. I heard that Primož crashed so I really hope that he's OK and that he can continue the race.”
Pedersen, meanwhile, was a resounding winner in the sprint for the stage, beating Ackermann into second place, with Van Poppel taking third. The Dane has all but secured the green jersey thanks to his second stage win of the race, even if the day will be remembered for the late drama involving Roglic.
Pedersen had not anticipated Roglic’s move, but he had the strength to bridge across. “It was a really smart move, everyone was on the limit,” he said. “Ackermann was straight on his wheel, a really good job. I had to use a lot energy to close it. it was a very good move.
“I didn’t see the crash. I wanted to go to Primoz after the finish, but I saw he had destroyed clothing. It was a pity he crashed. He hasn’t been lucky this year. I hope it’s not too bad so he can keep contending for the victory of the Vuelta.”
How it unfolded
After the final rest day of the race, the Vuelta caravan assembled on the left bank of the Guadalquivir River for the start of stage 16 in the sherry-producing town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Soudal) was absent after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, while Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost) also withdrew before the start, but the rest of the 142 riders in the peloton were given a clean bill of health to continue in the race.
Not many riders were much inclined to race, mind, in the opening kilometres of a long and largely flat stage at this juncture in the Vuelta. Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) and Luis Angel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked more or less as soon as the flag was dropped outside of Sanlúcar and they were given plenty of early leeway by the bunch.
They quickly built a lead of four minutes before Cofidis and Trek-Segafredo set about policing the head of the peloton on behalf of Coquard and Pedersen. There was precious little change in that status for most of the long, flat road north towards Seville, where the only statistical interest was provided by Maté, who has pledged to plant a tree for every kilometre he spends off the front on this Vuelta.
The break’s lead dropped to a minute or so by the time they reached the intermediate sprint in Alcala del Río with 28km to go, where Pedersen cruised through in third place to add another 15 points to his advantage in the green jersey standings.
Okamika and Maté’s day-long adventure came to an end with 14km or so remaining, just as the terrain grew a little hillier on the approach to Tomares. Evenepoel’s QuickStep-AlphaVinyl squad positioned the red jersey towards the front from there on, with Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma also moving up.
The pace on the short unclassified ascent with 12km to go was brisk but not intense enough to burn off the fast men, though Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco) saw his hopes of victory torpedoed when he punctured over the other side.
The stage took on altogether different guise inside the final 3km, however, with Roglic’s searing attack. The combination of that surprise effort and Evenepoel’s puncture seemed to be tilting the balance of this race back in Roglic’s favour, but the picture is muddled after his crash in the finishing straight.
Roglic, who had led the break into the closing metres, was drifting back when he appeared to make contact with Fred Wright. “When I tried to sprint, I was blocked by Primoz and I think that’s what caused the crash,” Wright said. “I think it was just a racing incident. I was coming out and around and he was coming backwards. Nothing was deliberate, obviously, and I hope he’s alright.”
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