Overnight leader Julian Alaphilippe drops to second overall after the hardest stage of the race.
Vuelta a San Juan resumed Friday morning, but for Deceuninck – Quick-Step it wasn’t the best start, an early crash taking down Julian Alaphilippe and Alvaro Hodeg. The two quickly remounted and continued the race, the latter even spending a considerable amount of time at the head of the bunch, setting a strong tempo behind the 15-man breakaway, which by the time it entered the last 20 kilometers had the advantage reduced to three minutes, thanks especially to Alvaro’s hard and remarkable work.
As soon as he peeled off the front, Petr Vakoč took over and continued to chew into the escapees’ gap. On the lower slopes of the 14.4km-long Alto del Colorado, the day’s main difficulty, Winner Anacona (Movistar) attacked from the reduced field, prompting a response from neo-pro Remco Evenepoel, who brought teammate Julian Alaphilippe to the front and began ramping up the watts.
More attacks followed on the roads to the2565-meter high climb, and eventually Julian decided to make his move inside the last three kilometers. His charge immediately erased 20 seconds, but the strong headwind made it very difficult for the double stage winner to gain more ground and keep his white jersey, which at the end of the day landed on Anacona’s shoulders, who took also the stage honours at the top of the pivotal summit finish.
Alaphilippe moved down to second in the general classification ahead of the next two flat days, with teammate Remco Evenepoel in ninth place, a result which helped the 19-year-old retain the green jersey awarded to the best young rider of the Vuelta a San Juan.
“The goal was to help Julian keep his jersey, but it was really tough out there with headwind the entire climb. We chased hard once Anacona attacked, but it wasn’t easy because of the strong wind and the wide roads of Colorado. We did everything for him, I pulled as hard as I could, but unfortunately we just couldn’t take time back”, said Remco after the stage. “On the other hand, I am happy for retaining the green jersey. It’s my first pro race, one from which I have learned a lot already – from both wins and defeats – and it would be really nice to go home with it.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images