Bahrain Victorious impressed on stage 6 of La Vuelta with four team members joining a 35-man breakaway – Mikel Landa, Wout Poels, Santiago Buitrago, and Antonio Tiberi. The Basque rider placed fourth, and Bahrain Victorious moved to first in the team classification.
A challenging 183km stage featured over 4,000m of altitude gain, finishing with a brutal mountaintop finish next to the Javalambre Observatory. The pace was fast from the start, and it took several attempts before the breakaway formed. An initial break with a lead of 25 seconds was small enough to invite more and more riders to bridge over until the 35-man break formed with four TBV riders.
The maximum lead for the breakaway was 7 minutes, which came down to 3:45 with 7km to go. At that point, attacks came from the breakaway as well as from the peloton, realising they would not contend for the stage win but to save some seconds in their GC aspirations. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) attacked in the break with 3.3km to go, and he managed to pass Martinez (FDJ) and Bardet(DSM) and rode alone to the stage win, with Martinez sprinting in the last 50m to take the second place and red jersey. Mikel Landa came 4th, 46 seconds after the winner, while Wout Poels came 6th, 1:03 behind. Meanwhile, Santiago Buitrago brought back time after a crash earlier in the Vuelta, finishing 11th, 1:32 behind the winner. The stage caused a significant shake-up in GC as two TBV riders are back in the top 10 – Poels 4th with a 1:41 deficit and Landa 6th with 1:58.
Lead Sports Director Neil Stephens: “Our boys are 4th and 6th in General Classification. Obviously, I’m really happy with that but realistic. We had a good day, but we need to make sure we keep our heads calm and know that there will be better days as well as bad days, but today was a good day for us. I’m really pleased that we moved up on teams classification as well, but that is another battle, that is a battle over 3 weeks. We have to make sure that we keep our focus, day to day, and keep our performance up. Tomorrow is more of a sprint stage, so it is not the stage we’ll look for a result. We’ll be looking to recover and making sure we protect our leaders well throughout the stage so there are no mishaps, and then moving to a real hard weekend of racing.”
Mikel Landa: “It was a very hard stage, as we expected. We had 4 riders in the breakaway. We managed well to arrive at the bottom of the climb with enough time before the bunch. We went strong until the finish line to keep team GC a possibility and improved our individual position in the GC. I’m happy that I connected to the GC again. Let’s see, the coming days will be crucial to see if I can do the GC or if I need to focus on the stages.”
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