Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) managed to impressively hold onto victory on stage five of the Vuelta a España, attacking from the break on the final climb of the day and solo to the finish line first.
Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) initially attacked on the final of five climbs in the day, 25km from the finish line in Bilbao. He managed to get a 40-second lead part way up the category two mountain, but Soler eventually caught him with 1.2km still left on the ascent.
The Spaniard powered past Stewart heading up the mountain, and built up a gap of 11 seconds to the main chasing group as he reached the summit, before starting the long descent to the finish line. The peloton was a further four minutes back, with red jersey wearer Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) towards the front of the group as he looked to retain the overall lead.
A chasing group of ten riders seemed likely of bringing Soler back in, but he continued to plough on with his solo attack, as the margin barely got reduced. He came into the final kilometre stamping on the pedals, gritting his teeth to get to the line quicker as the riders behind started getting into position for their sprints.
This ultimately came too late for them, though, and Soler crossed the line celebrating while the other ten battled it out for the rest of the podium. Daryl Impey (Israel-Premier Tech) came home second, while Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) finished third.
Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) moves into the overall lead of the race, with Roglič now over four minutes behind on GC. Fred Wright is just two seconds off of Molard.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After the Vuelta a España returned to Spanish soil on yesterday’s stage four, stage five presented a more difficult test with five categorised climbs on the 187.2km course from Irún to Bilbao.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) came into the day wearing the red jersey, following his powerful stage four victory, becoming the fourth rider from the Dutch squad to take the overall lead of the race in the opening four days.
Stage five started with a fast pace over the largely flat gradient, ensuring the peloton remained in tact for the opening 70km. Large groups of riders tried to attack at points, though, as did Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) by himself, but nothing managed to stick.
The first breakaway of the day finally formed 70km into the stage, still over 20km away from the summit of the first categorised climb. It comprised of nine riders initially, and soon rose to 17 in total after a few counter-attacks from the peloton as riders managed to bridge across. Only Groupama-FDJ and Israel-Premier Tech had more than one rider in the break.
Upon reaching the first proper climb, a category three mountain, the breakaway’s lead stood at over two minutes, and had Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) in the middle of both groups attempting to join the leaders. He eventually caught up after summiting the first mountain.
The first three categorised climbs all came within 25km of each other, and Victor Langellotti (Burgos-BH) won the KOM sprints on all three. The Monegasque attacked on each category three climb as he ultimately moved into the virtual lead of the KOM jersey.
With 50km remaining and just starting the fourth categorised climb, a category two ascent, the break’s lead stood above three minutes. Halfway up the climb, Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) attacked, building up some distance on the mountain to the rest of the break. Langellotti tried his best to catch up in an attempt to take the maximum mountains points, but he left it a little too late as Craddock summited the Alto del Vivero first.
The pair started their descent with a 12-second gap to the rest of the break, and over four minutes to the peloton, which had lost some time on the mountain. The race still featured the same mountain a little later on, as they completed a couple of laps in the Basque Country towards the finish line at Bilbao.
On the descent to Bilbao, the majority of the break came back together, though there was only 12 riders still at the front, with six having been dropped along the way. The peloton was a further five minutes back, with Jumbo-Visma dragging the bunch along to ensure the red jersey would remain on Roglič’s back for stage six.
With less than 25km remaining, Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) attacked, heading onto the foot of the final climb with a 30-second lead. This continued to build, but started to fall as he struggled somewhat with the steep incline. Roger Adrià (Equipo Kern Pharma) countered from the main break, but didn’t manage to get anywhere before he was reeled back in. Stewart’s Groupama-FDJ teammate Rudy Molard was in the break, too, trying to control the pace so Stewart could continue out front.
His lead kept falling, though, as Soler attacked from further back, Indeed, the Spaniard caught Stewart with a kilometre still left on the mountain, and powered past him in what seemed a solo attempt for the line. Stewart dropped back into the initial break, while Soler crested the summit with an 11-second lead. Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) led Molard, Langellotti and Vadim Pronskiy (Astana Qazaqstan) down the mountain, with Stewart and Craddock giving chase, among others.
The peloton also gained ground on the final ascent, reducing the deficit to four minutes to Soler, with Jumbo-Visma still at the head of the bunch.
Stewart soon dropped off the six riders chasing Soler, whose margin stayed between ten and 15 seconds.
With 2.5km remaining, Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar) and Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) came from further back to overtake the chasing group, building up a slight gap as they gradually reeled Soler back into the group. Soler continued to plough on, and led the race into the final kilometre.
It seemed inevitable Soler would be caught, but once he was in the sights of the chasing group, the tempo slowed once again, riders jostling for position and eager not to start their sprints too early. This allowed Soler to steal a larger advantage out front, and he desperately pedalled towards the line, crossing it first in celebration.
Elsewhere, the peloton finished over five minutes behind Soler, meaning Roglič won’t be wearing red for stage six. Instead, that privilege will fall to Rudy Molard, who leads Fred Wright by two seconds on GC.
Vuelta a España stage five results
1. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-15-23
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel-Premier Tech, at 4s
3. Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
4. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5. Lawson Craddock (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco
6. Nikias Arndt (Ger) DSM
7. Victor Langellotti (Mon) Burgos-BH
8. Vadim Pronskiy (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan
9. Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Movistar
10. Roger Adrià (Esp) Equipo Kern Pharma
General classification after stage five
1. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 16-07-22
2. Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain-Victorious, at 2s
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) DSM, at 1-09
4. Lawson Craddock (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 2-27
5. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 4-09
6. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 4-22
7. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-35
8. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
9. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 4-36
10. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-42