After another tough day across bumpy terrain and a summit finish at Santo Toridio de Liebana, Wilco Kelderman remains 3rd in the general classification.
It was a 169km journey from Suances to another summit finish at Santo Toribio de Liebana for the Vuelta a España’s 18th stage. En route were four categorised climbs, with three in the third category and one second.
It took 58 kilometres for a breakaway to establish a solid lead on the pack, with the group of 20-riders quickly extending their lead to peak at just under 13 minutes. The GC action remained quiet until the Ollada de La Hoz, the day’s penultimate second category ascent. Wilco Kelderman still had team mates around him on the beginning of the climb, with Wilco able to follow the accelerations that came from the GC favourites looking to take more time on their rivals. As the gradients intensified the peloton was scattered all over the climb and Wilco was still placed amongst the overall favourites.
Accelerations from the GC group saw one rider go clear whilst Wilco remained tucked inside the peloton who were riding with high pace up the climb. The red jersey put his foot on the gas on the climb to the finish, causing small splits in the group. After being brought to position by Team Sunweb’s Grand Tour debutant Søren Kragh Andersen, Wilco continued to pace his way up the ascent, finishing the day in perfect position to retain his 3rd place in the overall standings.
“Today was a difficult day,” explained Wilco after the stage. “I stayed together with the team through the day and when the race was heading towards the final climb Søren brought me into perfect position. On the climb I stayed with the best GC guys and didn’t lose any time. I felt good today and I’m pleased with the result.”
Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef said: “Today we expected a big fight between the GC riders with 3 climbs one after the other and an uphill to the finish. After 60km a break went clear and the gap went up to 13 minutes, so we knew it would be another day for them. On the second climb the attacks started and the bunch was split, Wilco stayed with the best 10 riders on the climbs. Søren got back on whilst on the descent and put Wilco into position for the final climb. Wilco rode strong in the final kilometre and finished four seconds behind the leader. He’s still 3rd in the GC so another good day for us.”