King crowned at Alfacar
August 28 th 2018 - 18:16
The first major mountain stage of La Vuelta 18 saw long range attackers succeed and especially Ben King, winner on Tuesday atop the Puerto de Alfacar. The 29 year-old American rider spent the whole day at the front and eventually dominated Nikita Stalnov (Astana) and Pierre Rolland (Education First-Drapac) to claim his maiden Grand Tour victory. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) retains the red jersey but Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) are threatening his leadership.
A hard day in the mountains saw Polka-dot jersey Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and his main rival for the KOM classification, Pierre Rolland (Education First-Drapac), attack again. The two men went from the start, as they already did in the previous two stages. Ben Gastauer (Astana), Nikita Stalnov (Astana), Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal), Ben King (Team Dimension Data), Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo), Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH) and Aritz Bagues (Euskadi-Murias) joined the move. Their lead was up to 4’30’’ as they faced the first slopes of the Alto de la Cabra Montés, 51km into the stage.
Luis Angel Mate summited the climb first and Ben Gastauer got in the mix, taking 6 points ahead of Pierre Rolland. Team Sky set a moderate pace in the peloton and the gap increased to 7 minutes at the summit, with 95km to go. No-one came to help Michal Kwiatkowski’s teammates and the attackers’ led kept rising, up to 10 minutes as they entered the last 40km. It was still around 8 minutes when LottoNL-Jumbo accelerated at the bottom of the Puerto de Alfacar, the 12.4km final climb.
After several attempts, Ben King and Nikita Stalnov managed to get away from their breakaway companions 10km away from the summit. They resisted to Pierre Rolland until the summit, where King outpowered Stalnov. Among the favourites, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked with 3 km to go to gain, along with Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), 27’’ on Michal Kwiatkowski, still in red.