Vuelta a España: Andorra looms on the horizon
Elia Viviani finished in the top 5 in Lleida, after a hectic and chaotic finale on the penultimate flat stage of the race.
One of the oldest towns in Spain, Lleida hosted a stage finish for the 17th time in history, 62 years after the first visit, when Delio Rodriguez captured the win at the end of a stage which rolled out from Barcelona. This time, the peloton gathered in Ejea de los Caballeros, a municipality located in Aragon, and as soon as they left behind the neutralized sector, gave three men green light to go up the road and open a four-minute lead.
Neo-pro Kasper Asgreen duly took the front of the bunch and did again a top job, relentlessly setting the tempo for more than 100 kilometers and reducing the gap of the escapees to under two minutes inside the last 15 kilometers. From that point on, the margin should have came down tumbling, but the other teams' lack of commitment saw the two remaining leaders narrowly make it to the line, where Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) won just as the pack – splintered on the uphill drag as a result of the frantic chase – were preparing to overhaul them.
Quick-Step Floors sports director Wilfried Peeters shared his thoughts at the end of the stage which Elia Viviani – the most successful sprinter of the year – concluded in fourth position: "The riders in the break were strong and also got some help from the tailwind. We did most of the work again, with only one other team chipping in time and again at the front, while all the other squads that had a sprinter showed no interest in chasing down the attackers. It was their decision, just as ours was to use only some of the guys, as we wanted the others to stay fresh for the next two hard mountain stages."
On Friday, Vuelta a España schedules another summit finish, this time to Andorra Naturlandia (17km, 6.6%), where best young rider of the race Enric Mas, who in the space of just five days has moved up nine places in the general classification, will try to hold onto his podium place.
Photo credit: ©Gomez-Pool/ Getty Images