Race report

Mark Donovan and Michael Storer fight to 5th and 6th on Alto de la Covatilla

Vuelta a España

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.

“It was another really tough mountain day,” explained Donovan at the finish. “It was the penultimate day of the Vuelta so everyone was keen to have another hit out. We did really well and managed to get three guys in the big break of the day; me, Michael and Jasha. We did a really good job of keeping our heads cool and saving as much energy leading up into the final. It ended up on the last descent I attacked and got a gap with two other guys but I just didn’t have the legs to follow the top guys. Me and Michael ended up riding together and managed to stay away for fifth and sixth which is a good result. It was another really tough day but we can be really proud how it went and how the whole Vuelta has went.”

Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef added: “Our goal today was to race until the finish line for everyone and see where our limits are after three weeks of hard racing. At the start a big group went clear with Mark, Michael and Jasha in there. They did a really good job in the breakaway. We didn’t have the responsibility to carry the break as UAE and Groupama were working so we could sit on and save some energy. Riders were dropping throughout the stage, it was a really tough day and also pretty cold at certain moments. Mark attacked through the village with around 15 kilometres to go, and got away with Izagirre and Mäder and they had 45 seconds going onto the final climb where it was a big fight. Michael did it in a really good way in the front of the chasing group, where Gaudu and De La Cruz attacked. Once again, Michael and Mark worked together until the finish where they came fifth and sixth – really top results after three weeks of hard racing for the young guys. Also a very big compliment to Thymen, who after all of his efforts and results he’s made so far at the Vuelta managed to finish alongside some of the GC contenders on today’s finish. All in all, we can once again be really proud of our performances today.”

Results

Pos. Rider Team Time Points
1 GAUDU David Groupama - FDJ 4:54:32 100
2 MÄDER Gino NTT Pro Cycling 0:28 40
3 IZAGIRRE Ion Astana Pro Team 1:05 20
5 DONOVAN Mark Team Sunweb 1:53 4
6 STORER Michael Team Sunweb ,, -
22 ARENSMAN Thymen Team Sunweb 3:51 -
32 POWER Robert Team Sunweb 7:44 -
41 SÜTTERLIN Jasha Team Sunweb 13:47 -
106 KANTER Max Team Sunweb 37:38 -