The Tour Take | Vuelta a Espana Stage 5
1st – Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale)
2nd – Bauke Mollema (Trek - Segafredo) @ s.t.
3rd – Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing Team) @ s.t.
Red - Rudy Mollard (Groupama-FDJ)
Green - Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)
Polka Dot - Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
1st - Simon Clarke
18th - Jai Hindley
27th - Jay McCarthy
69th - Jack Haig
71st - Damien Howson
108th - Rohan Dennis
110th - Michael Storer
111th - Richie Porte
112th - NIck Schultz
145th - Alex Edmondson
168th - Mitchell Docker
1st - Rudy Mollard (Groupama - FDJ)
2nd - Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) @ 1:01
3rd - Emanuel Buchmann (Bora - hansgrohe) @ 1:08
4th - Simon Yates (Mitchelton - SCOTT) @ 1:17
5th - Alejandro Valverde (Team Movistar) @ 1:13
6th - Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) @ 1:26
9th - Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar) @ 1:34
10th - Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) @ 1:38
13th - Thibaut Pinot (Groupama - FDJ) @ 1:44
14th - George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) @ 1:46
15th - Miguel Angel Lopez (Team Astana) 1:47
17th - Rigoberto Uran (Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) @ 1:49
Stage 5 was again up and down all day long, as the race continued with its flat-but-not-actually-flat opening week. 188km from Granada to Roquetas de Mar, the stage was fairly breakaway friendly. Though there was a flat finish, the second of two categorised climbs topped out with 26km to go. A long descent led back down to the seaside with 8km to go
The Key Point
The Category 2 Alto el Marchal was crucial to the complexion of the race; though it wasn’t overly tough, it was long (14.9km @ 3.8%), and coming so close to the end, sprinters teams weren’t really going to be invested in bringing it back. The result was a breakaway friendly stage.
With the whole peloton aware that a winning break was on the cards, it took an hour and a half of pretty hot racing for the break to be established. When it was, 25 riders had found themselves out front, including Mollema, De Marchi Postlberger, Molard, Trentin, Brambilla, Hindley, Clarke and several other highly rated riders.
A watched pot never boils, and a big breakaway never works well – with several passengers in the group Alessandro De Marchi attacked with nearly 80km to go. While De Marchi cooked out front, Simon Clarke and Bauke Mollema bridged up to him at the base of the final climb.
While the majority of the break was minutes behind, another group of three was a minute behind them, with Davide Villela, Floris De Tier, and Rudy Molard. Molard had another goal though; he was 28th overall at the start of the day, 3:46 behind race leader Michal Kwiatkowski. With the breakaway 6:00 behind the front of the race at the top of the final climb, he was in the box seat to take the Red Jersey.
As the front group of three reached the top of the Alto el Marchal, they had a minute over the Molard group and another five over the peloton. Simon Clarke was a clear favourite for the sprint but De Marchi and Mollema seemed happy to work with him until only the final few kilometres, as the chasing three still lingered a minute behind.
Despite the games starting with 6km to go, and the chase group being given the chance to close the gap, it came down to a sprint. Simon Clarke had policed the group expertly and set the sprint up perfectly too. De Marchi was forced to lead out the sprint, and Clarke sprinted around him easily with Mollema rolling in second.
Group Mollard rolled in eight seconds back, with the peloton nearly five minutes back, meaning that the Frenchman Rudy Mollard took the Red Jersey.
The Winning Ride
Simon Clark fills the Road Captain role these days and doesn’t get too many chances to ride for himself (his last win was two and a half years ago). It was good to see him a) get that opportunity and b) take advantage of it. His ride was tactically perfect, knowing he was the sprint finish, and ensuring that situation played out
3 – Simon Clarke. Clarke controlled the race perfectly in the final kilometres as De Marchi and Mollema threw everything at him. A well-deserved win
2 – Rudy Mollard. A stage-win pales in comparison to a day (and likely longer) in Red, he rode smartly to make sure he took the jersey and got his reward
1 – Bauke Mollema. There aren’t too many riders with a worse chance of winning from a small group on a flat run-in than the Dutchman, but he tries hard and for that, he can have a vote
Leaders: Clarke, Dennis, King, Kwiatkowski, Valverde, Vivianni, (3), De Plus, Mate Mollard, S Yates, (2), Campenaerts, Mollema, Postlberger, Rolland (1), De Gendt (-1)
The Next Stage
Stage 6 is one of the few flat stages that are actually flat at this year’s Vuelta. On the 155km run, they’ll cover two Category 3 climbs mid-way through the stage, but this is as flat as it comes at La Vuelta, so anything except a sprint would be a surprise
Elia Vivianni torched the opening sprint on Stage 3, with daylight back to Giacomo Nizzolo back in second. He’ll double up here and make it six GT stages this year.
See you back at the social club,