Doomed breakaways are still attractive
At what point into their 180km lonely sojourn at the front of stage three of the Vuelta a España do you think the seven riders in the breakaway knew that they would not make it to the finish?
One assumes that even just 1km into their day in the break, these riders wouldn’t think they could challenge for the victory. Not on such a flat day, with so much interest in a bunch sprint in the peloton behind. And yet seven men clearly thought it was attractive enough an opportunity to go up the road; if you do not try, you cannot win.
As well as the opportunity of two (yes, two!) KOM points on offer, there is also just the opportunity to get your sponsor on television, to try something a bit different, to show willing. As Thomas de Gendt of Lotto Soudal, one of the lucky seven, revealed, the day can actually be more enjoyable up the road.
“Actually, I did not plan to be in the break,” he said. “But when I saw they let 6 men go, I thought I might try as well. It is always easier to get through all the small towns in a breakaway than in the peloton. And there was also the possibility of taking the KOM jersey. That did not work out in the end, but I enjoyed myself today.”
Julius van den Berg is doing a Magnus Cort impression
Three days into a Grand Tour, all spent abroad from its normal home country, and a rider from that foreign country is in the polka dot jersey. No, it’s not the Tour de France in Denmark and Magnus Cort, it’s the Vuelta a España in the Netherlands and its Julius van den Berg.
The pair don’t have too much in common, other than they’re not out and out climbers, and they both ride for EF Education-EasyPost. It is clearly a plan to try and get some traction at the opening of a Grand Tour, and Van den Berg must be enjoying his time in a distinctive jersey and on the podium in the Netherlands.
The rider from North Holland has not had much in the way of success in his career, and it must be a thrill to be riding in front of home fans in the blue polka dots. Things will get serious as soon as the race starts again in the Basque Country on Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see if Van den Berg attempts to defend his lead as things get pretty hilly.
Ineos Grenadiers have a brief scare
It is never a good sight to see three of your key riders standing on the side of the road while the peloton races on; this is what happened to Ineos Grenadiers on Sunday.
Richard Carapaz was involved in what his team described as a “low speed crash” during stage three, and was see at the side of the road putting his chain back on his gold bike in the company of Pavel Sivakov and Carlos Rodríguez. However, the trio quickly made it back on and no serious harm appeared to have been done.
It goes to show how switched on general classification riders have to be at all times, even on the flattest day imaginable at a Grand Tour. The traffic calming measures of the Netherlands do not create fun spaces for professional cyclists.
Jumbo-Visma are very much in control
Three days of the Vuelta a España, and three separate Jumbo-Visma riders have pulled on the red jersey on the podium. Thanks to their powerful performance in Friday’s team time trial, with eight riders all finishing on the same time, the Dutch team have had the nice ability to pick and choose which one of their number will be wearing red the next day.
The first day it was Robert Gesink who got the privilege, next it was Mike Teunissen and now it is Edoardo Affini who has got the lead, and therefore will lead the race back to Spain.
The fact they have picked three riders who would not normally get a chance to wear a Grand Tour leader’s jersey is interesting – although, of course, Teunissen did wear the maillot jaune at the Tour de France a few years ago.
Lurking in the background is Primož Roglič, who has actually won the whole Vuelta for the past three editions, so the Dutch team will be hoping that Affini is not the third and final member of their squad to pull on red.
It has also been a boost to the Vuelta while it has been in the Netherlands to have a home team at the forefront; Jumbo are currently riding the kind of high that Team Sky had in the UK ten years ago.
Bora-Hansgrohe are a super team
Cycling, just like Premier League football, has some kind of “big five” which sits above the other challenger teams. There’s Jumbo-Visma, the team of Roglič, Wout van Aert, and Jonas Vingegaard; there’s Ineos Grenadiers, with more GC contenders than races to send them to; UAE Team Emirates with Tadej Pogačar and Juan Ayuso; and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, the squad that simply never stops winning.
The fifth and final of this quintet is Bora-Hansgrohe, the German squad that seems to be getting better and better. It came onto the WorldTour as little more than a Peter Sagan vehicle, but now the Slovakian has departed, has managed to remodel itself as one of the biggest GC teams, and still manages to win individual stages too.
On the day Marco Haller won the BEMER Cyclassics in Hamburg, Sam Bennett made it two from two for the German squad, fully justifying their decision to bring him back to the squad, and to pick him for the Vuelta. Bora are now just two more wins from 30 for the season, joining the other four super-teams, and you would not bet against them doing it this race.