Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) couldn’t hold up his tears after giving everything he had to win stage 7 of La Vuelta 22. The Spanish baroudeur narrowly edged Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan) and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) in Cistierna after a 190km stage covered at a brutal pace to hold off the bunch. He takes his 2nd stage win in the Spanish Grand Tour, 3 years after the previous one. Sprinters teams, and especially Mads Pedersen’s Trek-Segafredo, tried to control the day ahead of two gruelling stages in the Asturias. But the peloton eventually came up short as Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) crossed the line with a gap of 29’’ to the stage winner. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) is only the 2nd Belgian rider to retain the overall leadership for more than a day in La Vuelta in the last 40 years, after Philippe Gilbert in 2010.
On the day after Jay Vine and Remco Eneveopel’s shows of strength, and ahead of two gruelling stages in the Asturias, La Vuelta 22 heads west with a 190km route from Camargo to Cistierna that could favour sprinters or attackers. 176 riders start after AG2R Citroen’s Andrea Vendrame and Jaakko Hanninen returned positive tests to Covid-19.
Trek-Segafredo and BikeExchange-Jayco control the gap
After a few skirmishes, six attackers quickly manage to open a gap: Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Omer Goldstein (Israel Premier Tech), Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) and Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
But the peloton, and especially Euskaltel-Euskadi, are not willing to let them go. The battle is ongoing until the gap eventually increases to 1’ just ahead of km 30. BikeExchange-Jayco and Trek-Segafredo move to the front of the bunch in order to control the gap.
Sprinters struggle on the ascent
The attackers push their lead up to 4’20’’ after 60km of racing. The gap is down to 3’30’’ at the bottom of the main climb of the day, the 22.4km Puerto de San Glorio (summit at km 125.8).
Trek-Segafredo up the ante on the ascent with the likes of Kenny Elissonde and Juanpe Lopez setting the pace. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is dropped 16km away from the summit. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) suffers the same fate a few kilometres later and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) is also dropped inside the last 2km of ascent.
At the front, Omer Goldstein can’t keep up with his breakaway companions. The gap is down to 2’35’’ at the summit.
The attackers resist
With the help of two teammates, Sam Bennett returns to the bunch after a 15km chase. Arkea-Samsic and BikeExchange set the pace as the race enters the last 40km. The attackers hold on to a lead of 2’05’’ into the last 30km. And the gap doesn’t change much until Trek-Segafredo and Bora-Hansgrohe start pulling inside the last 25km.
Samuele Battistella, Fred Wright, Jesus Herrada, Harry Sweeny and Jimmy Janssens still have a lead of 58’’ under the 10km banner. And 50’’ with 5km to go.
They eventually get to battle it out for the stage win in Cistierna. Wright opens up the sprint but Herrada powers to his 2nd stage win in La Vuelta, three years after Ares del Maestrat. Half a minute later, Bennett is the fastest rider from the bunch.