The Colombian finished third in Villa San Agustin, where Julian Alaphilippe kept the overall lead.
Wednesday’s stage (185.8 kilometers) was the longest of this year’s Vuelta a San Juan, and for that very reason the peloton didn’t panic when the eight men who made the breakaway came to enjoy a nine-minute maximum lead just as they were preparing to tackle the first of the three classified climbs crammed in the middle of the course between San Jose de Jechal and Villa San Agustin.
Petr Vakoc, who in Argentina made his return to cycling after a 16-month break caused by a terrible injury, was by a clear margin the MVP of the day, after spending dozens and dozens of kilometres at the head of the bunch, be it flat, mountains or downhill, impervious to the 40 degrees Celsius which only added to the difficulty of the stage. The Czech didn’t stop there, and even after the breakaway got caught, he took again several rotations to position the Deceuninck – Quick-Step train as the final kilometer was looming.
Piloted by the excellent Maximiliano Richeze, Alvaro Hodeg rounded the final corner of the stage and opened the sprint from 150 meters out, finishing third behind Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), for his maiden podium of 2019, one which will feed the confidence of the young Colombian for the last two stages, which should also come down to a bunch gallop.
Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel – who contributed to the lead-out train, stretching out the field inside the final three kilometres – retained their white and green jersey respectively, as well as their place in the general classification, meaning they will go into Friday’s queen stage sitting first and fourth overall.
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers