Crosswinds split peloton in final section of stage eight; Alejandro Valverde retains overall race lead
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) claimed his second stage at this year’s Vuelta a Espana in a bunch sprint on Saturday’s stage eight.
Crosswinds forced a series of splits in the peloton in the final 30 kilometres, but all the major GC candidates finished safely in the lead group, including overall leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Sky did well to keep Chris Froome towards the front all day, and the Briton was not caught out in any of the splits. Neither did the crash he suffered yesterday seem to cause any problems, suggesting that any injuries sustained are unsubstantial.
A group of around 50 contested the sprint for the win. Bouhanni had to come from a long way behind, having found himself about seventh place in the lead out for the sprint, but timed his effort well and demonstrated fantastic acceleration to jump ahead and hold his lead.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) came closest and lost out by half a wheel-length on the line. Matthews had followed the Bouhanni’s wheel and tried to overtake on his left-hand side in the last few metres, but a slight shift to that side from the Frenchman ensured that the pass would not happen.
For the first time in this Vuelta, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took part in the finale, sealing third place after passing John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) on the line. Like Bouhanni, Degenkolb found himself with a lot of work to do in the finishing straight, but failed to manoeuvre his way forward as efficiently as the Frenchman.
Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) constituted the day’s two-man break, but were caught with 40 kilometres still to go. After the catch had been made, the peloton – and especially Sky – prepared themselves for the exposed late section of the race in which crosswinds had been predicted.
These predictions came true and the race frequently fractured. The most significant split was caused when BMC, Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo banded together to drop the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). A frantic pursuit ensued, but Degenkolb’s available Giant domestiques proved strong enough to bridge the gap with just five kilometres to go.
Today marks the last chance in a while for the sprinters, as the race throws up another summit finish tomorrow.
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage eight: Baeza to Albacete, 185km
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ in 4-29-00
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Peter Sagan (Slo) Cannondale
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano
5. Greg Henderson (NZ) Lotto-Belisol
6. Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin
7. Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka
8. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
10. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Factory Racing all st
17. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at st
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 31-21-20
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 15 secs
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 18 secs
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 20 secs
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 41 secs
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 45 secs
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 55 secs
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 58 secs
9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano at 1-02
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1-06
15. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 1-34