Photo Credit: Cor Vos
The penultimate day of racing at the Vuelta a España saw the peloton faced with a tough day out in the saddle that featured over 4000 metres of climbing and a summit finish atop Alto de la Covatilla. Miserable conditions also awaited the riders as they rolled out for the neutralised zone, with lashing rain and strong winds. As was expected, a big fight for the breakaway took place before a large group of 34 riders got clear including Mark Donovan, Michael Storer and Jasha Sütterlin for the team.
The trio worked well together in the break but their gap to the peloton was kept steady throughout the afternoon, before being whittled down on the penultimate categorised climb. Sütterlin did some great final pulls for his teammates before having to let go of the wheels as the pace increased in front. Donovan and Storer continued to ride strongly, and after a few attacks got clear from the bunch, they slowed down the tempo behind – allowing the breakaway to increase their lead to a stage winning margin.
Over the uncategorised cobbled climb Donovan put in a strong attack, forcing a move clear alongside Izagirre and Mäder. The trio worked well together, building a 40 second lead over the chasing group where Storer sat on and covered the moves. On the final climb to Covatilla, Izagirre would attack several times, with Donovan digging deep each time to regain contact before having to ride his own pace. Behind, Storer attempted to follow eventual stage winner Gaudu, before he bridged up to Donovan. The Team Sunweb duo then repeated their efforts from stage 11 where they crossed the line together and this time it was Donovan in fifth place while Storer came home in sixth – a nice reward for their and Sütterlin’s efforts in the breakaway.
Behind, Thymen Arensman and Robert Power stayed with the GC contenders for as long as possible on the final climb; testing their legs. Arensman produced a really impressive ride to finish in the same group as Dan Martin and Wout Poels at the line. With all Team Sunweb riders safely through the stage, focus now switches to the final day in Madrid where the team will look to set up young German sprinter Max Kanter for the finish.