Romain Bardet climbs to stage 14 victory at La Vuelta
Romain Bardet won the mountainous 14th stage of the Vuelta a Espana and also grabbed the lead in the climbing classification on Saturday
The Frenchman, who rides for DSM, was part of a group of 18 riders that escaped early on the 165.7km stage and built a huge lead by the start of the final climb.
He shook off the remnants of the breakaway for his first Vuelta stage win and only his second career win outside France, following the Tour of Burgos, also in Spain, earlier this month.
It was also his first grand tour stage win in four years.
"It's been a long wait, it's true. I've been second several times since then," said Bardet at the finish.
In the main pack, Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking responded to attacks from his main rivals on the final climb to come in 10min 49sec behind Bardet, and retain the overall lead, although he conceded a few seconds to reigning champion Primoz Roglic.
Bardet, who twice finished on the podium in the Tour de France early in his career, was caught in the huge crash in stage five which knocked him out of contention for the overall victory.
He was part of the group that went 8km into the stage and grabbed the lead in the King of the Mountains classification when he was first over the first two peaks of the day.
"After that, I knew that even if I didn't win, I had the polka dot jersey, so I bet on the stage win, and it worked out well," said Bardet.
The breakaway led by 14 minutes at the foot of the last climb, but was broken up by crashes, punctures and attacks.
Bardet remained cool as compatriot Nicolas Prodhomme and then two pursuers escaped.
"I had a feeling no one really wanted to commit in this breakaway," Bardet said.
"So I had really a hard time to catch the men in front. We really played it smart with my team director who told me exactly when I had to attack on the steepest (part of the climb). I just committed."
Bardet said that he had recovered from his earlier crash.
"The legs were OK," he said. "Everyone is a bit tired."
"It’s been a long wait. It means a lot. I’ve been second too many times. I know that taking the polka-dot jersey it’d be a double victory. It’s fantastic! "
Bardet was followed home 44 seconds later by Spaniard Jesus Herrera of Cofidis and Australian Jay Vine of Alpecin, his shirt in tatters after a nasty fall earlier in the stage.
Briton Tom Pidcock of Ineos, the Olympic mountain bike champion, finished fourth, another 28 seconds back.
Down the mountain, Frenchman Guillaume Martin, who is second overall, and a Cofidis team-mate tried to shake off Eiking. The Norwegian was able to match that move.
"Martin tried to attack but I knew it was a lot of headwind so I gambled to stay on the wheel and it worked out," said the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider.
Eiking could not quite keep up with a late attack from Slovenian Roglic of Jumbo Visma who pinched 16 seconds at the end.
Eiking remained 54 seconds ahead of Martin with Roglic closing to 1min 36sec.
Tomorrow's 15th stage on La Vuelta travels in 197.5 kilometres from Navalmoral de La Mata to El Barraco. Another mountain stage, it features four climbs spice up the last 100 kilometres before the finale is a 5.4 kilometres descent into the valley of the Alberche river.
VIDEO: 2021 La Vuelta Stage 14 Highlights
2021 La Vuelta Stage 14 Top 10
1 Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM 04:20:36
2 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis 00:00:44
3 Jay Vine (Aus) Alpecin-Fenix 00:00:44
4 Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:01:12
5 Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 00:01:14
6 Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto Soudal 00:01:16
7 Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Team BikeExchange 00:01:19
8 Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ 00:01:46
9 Nicolas Prodhomme (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 00:02:04
10 Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 00:02:15
2021 La Vuelta GC after Stage 14
1 Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 55:03:17
2 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:00:54
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 00:01:36
4 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:02:11
5 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team 00:03:04
6 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:03:35
7 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:21
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:49
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 00:04:59
10 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:05:31