Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s second-year pro remains the best-placed British rider in the GC after 15 stages.
A frantic start to the proceedings signalled another arduous day in the saddle at the race, which took an already fatigued bunch over four ranked ascents: Puerto del Acebo (which featured twice on the 154.4km course), Puerto del Connio and Puerto del Pozo de las Mujeres Muertas. This didn’t deter young James Knox, who tried several times to join the breakaway, only for the peloton to respond each time, before a 17-man group posing no threat to the GC finally managed to get clear.
From that move, it was Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) who dropped his companions and soloed to victory, while behind, the favourites kickstarted their own battle, which led to some big gaps being opened. James Knox was there for Deceuninck – Quick-Step and showcased some more solid climbing, remaining with the best until four kilometers to go, when the gradient began to bite, and he lost contact with the already reduced group.
Ignoring the pain and the seemingly never-ending slopes of Puerto del Acebo – the 57th summit finish in Asturias since the inception of La Vuelta – he soldiered on and once again concluded the day as the highest-finisher of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, moving one place in the general classification, up to 17th.
“We rode all out in the beginning of the day, then things calmed down helped also by the headwind, but the last climb was again a bruiser, with more steep ramps, a huge injection of pace in the pack and the fighting for position. I suffered, but the good thing is that I didn’t explode, I’ve got no pressure on myself and I’m still there after two weeks, gradually gaining places in the overall, which is very good for the moral.”
Instead of taking a rest day on Monday, the race will continue with another tough stage in the mountains, which will start from Pravia and take the riders atop Alto de la Cubilla, a 17.8km-long special-category ascent averaging 6.2%.
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