Vuelta a España (Spain) - Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) made the most of the iconic climb to the Lagos de Covadonga with a solo victory on Sunday. The French climber attacked with 6km to go and managed to fend off Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) in the last part of the climb to claim his first La Vuelta stage win after victories on the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) finished third to retain the red jersey and even gain a few seconds on Movistar’s power duo, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.
The battle for the breakaway once again proved to be a hard one. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hnansgrohe) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) tried to enjoy the early Alto de San Emiliano to get away, unsuccessfully. A group of 12 strong riders, most of them with past successes at La Vuelta eventually managed to open a gap after 35km of hard racing: Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Ben King (Dimension Data), Pierre Rolland (Education First-Drapac), George Bennett, Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky), Bauke Mollema, Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Nick Schultz (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
Simon Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott controlled the gap until Astana decided to up the tempo in the first ascent to the Mirador del Fito (1st category). Within 7km of climbing, the gap went from 5’30’’ to 3’40’’. Bauke Mollema took the points ahead of Ben King. The duo fought again in the second ascent to the Mirador del Fito and this time the American rider summited first. The gap to the peloton was down to 2’58’’ with 40.6km to go.
Yates replies to Lopez and Quintana:
Ivan Garcia Cortina went solo with 20km to go. He reached the bottom of the final climb up Lagos de Covadonga (11.7km, 7.2%) with a 1’ lead over his first chasers. The pack was at 2’14’’. But the hard pace set by Astana quickly changed the race situation: Garcia Cortina was caught 8km away from the summit while Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale) were already dropped off the back.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) immediately went for a first attack. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) followed him but Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) got back. The main GC contenders kept attacking each other and then slowing down. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) enjoyed the opportunity to jump ahead with 6km to go. He held on until the summit while Miguel Angel Lopez accelerated in the final 2km. The Colombian finished 28’’ behind the Frenchman and only 2’’ ahead of Simon Yates while Nairo Quintana was dropping six more seconds.