Fred Wright continued his extraordinary season on Friday at the Vuelta a España, in a stage that ended with a 5-man sprint to the line in Cistierna, giving the 23-year-old his 13th top 10 result of the year, and a 4th Grand Tour stage podium.
Wright and his breakaway companions had been ahead for 182 of the 190 kilometres from Camargo, which included an ascent of the category 1 Puerto de San Glorio (22.4kms with a maximum gradient of 11%) midway through.
Whether they would make it to the line was anything but certain, as the peloton reduced the gap from nearly 5 minutes to under 30 seconds. Wright was surprised when he discovered the main group wasn’t going to catch them:
The break went fairly early on, and I jumped across to get there. We had a good group of 6 guys working well together, and the best moment of the day was when we found out we were going to make it!
We were all thinking it wasn’t going to happen, but when it looks more likely you get even more motivated.
The last 22 kilometres were entirely downhill or flat, and when the escapees knew they could fight for the stage win, the Bahrain Victorious rider was amongst the favourites.
In the end, a headwind played into the hands of Fred’s rivals, as he was forced to the front with over 500m to go, and launched his sprint 300 out. It looked for a while as if he might hold on, but he tired as the line approached and was passed by Samuele Battistella (AST) and stage winner Jesus Herrada (COF).
People say, “You should have gone from the back,” but it’s easier said than done. It’s hard not to let the emotions get the better of you. You have to keep a cool head. But I think as soon as it clicks and I learn how it’s done it’s going to get a lot easier.
It’s hard when you want it so bad – I think that’s why I went a bit earlier because I see the finish line and I think, “I’ve got the best sprint here, I’m just going to go for it.”
Although the day ended without an individual victory, Team Bahrain Victorious fought their way to the top of the teams’ classification, ahead of UAE and Ineos.
Tomorrow’s route is a short but testing day in the mountains: 153.4km with 5 categorised climbs, including a summit finish atop the cat 1 Puerto Colláu Fancuaya.
And of course, there will be plenty more chances for our Fred!
“I’m feeling great and ready for more breakaways! It means a lot to everyone on the team as well to get that win on the board. I just needed to play the sprint a bit better but it’s all learning, so I’m sure there’ll be more opportunities. I’m not going to lie, I’m really gutted. But I have to stay positive, because it’s coming, it’s definitely coming“.
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