King doubles down, Yates edges Valverde
September 2 nd 2018 - 18:09
Second mountain summit finish at La Vuelta 18, and second stage win for Ben King (Dimension Data)! The American rider went again for the victorious breakaway on Sunday at La Covatilla, five days after winning at Alfacar. This time, he was able to celebrate on his own his solo victory ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) while favourites were battling it out in the final kilometres… Colombian climbers Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) showed the strongest legs but it’s Simon Yates (Mithcelton-Scott) who takes the red jersey, only one second ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)!
A strong group of 11 riders got away from the start with Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) attacking first in order to defend his Polka-dot jersey on the most mountainous day since the start of La Vuelta. Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Ben King (Dimension Data), Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas Leezer (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Jesus Ezquerra (Burgos-BH), Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) and Aritz Bagües (Euskadi-Murias) followed the Spaniard. Their lead steadily increased to 5’ in the first climb of the day, the cat-1 Puerto del Pico summited first by Mate (km 52.3).
Mate also took the most KOM points available at the cat-3 Alto de Gredos (km 68.6) as well as the cat-2 Puerto de Peña Negra (km 98). The gap was then up to 6’20’’… and it suddenly increased in the following downhill and the valley, up to 9’55’’ with 55km to go! Ben King was then a major threat for the red jersey as he started the day with a delay of 6’34’’ to Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ). Movistar waited for the last 50km to start pulling the pack, with a gap of 9’46’’.
Attacks from Lopez, Quintana and Kelderman
The increased pace cut the gap under 7 minutes as the race entered the last 20km. Ben King enjoyed a narrow, steep, cobbled section at Candelario (km 182) to go solo at the front. He had opened a gap of 1’30’’ to his chasers and 6’15’’ to the peloton when he reached the bottom of the final climb, the Alto de La Covatilla (9.8km at 7.1%). Bauke Mollema accelerated 9km away from the summit and gradually moved closer to the leader, with a gap down to 20’’ with 2km to go, before fading in the final smoother section.
In the pack, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) set a hard pace for Emanuel Buchmann and Rudy Molard was dropped with 6km to go. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) also struggled with 2km to go, before Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) accelerated one after the other. The gaps were minimal on the line, but sufficient for Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) to take the red jersey one second ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).