In the chaotic sprint which concluded stage 18, the Etixx – Quick-Step rider finished 8th.
Shortly after the start of the penultimate day for sprinters at this year's Vuelta a España (Requena – Gandia, 200.6 kilometers), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), Quentin Jauregui (AG2R), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) broke clear and pushed hard to open what was a big lead over a peloton who wasn't willing to miss out on this opportunity that presented itself on Friday, after a backbreaking mountain stage in which the sprinters have suffered aplenty.
The gap of the escapees came down long before the final 100 kilometers, but began going up again as the teams decided to take it easy at the prospect of catching the quintet too early. Etixx – Quick-Step brought an important contribution at the front of the bunch, stretching out the peloton and chipping away the break's advantage, before eventually reeling in the five riders inside the final 10 kilometers.
The pulsating bunch sprint saw Gianni Meersman conclude the stage in 8th position, as Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) emerged victorious ahead of Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC). For Gianni, already a double stage winner at the Vuelta a España, this was his third top 10 finish in the past three weeks, without adding the victories he took in spectacular fashion in the towns of Baiona and Lugo, all these results making of the Belgian the most consistent sprinter in the race.
The third and last Grand Tour of the season continues on Friday with stage 19, a 37-km long individual time trial, which will have the riders cover a rolling course from Xabia to Calp.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele