BMC Racing’s Alessandro De Marchi came out on top in a two-man duel before soloing to victory in the 207.8km 11th stage of the Vuelta a Espana in Luintra today.
The Italian completed the race in 4:52:38, beating Katusha-Alpecin’s Jhonatan Restrepo by 28 seconds. Bahrain-Merida’s Franco Pellizotti completed the podium a further 31 seconds back.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates was left sweating over his general classification lead throughout the race, but managed to hold on to the red jersey. He has a GC time of 45:57:40, just a second clear of Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
A fast pace, averaging 48km/h, was maintained over the first 100km. Various breakaway groups were formed, but none were able to stay away.
Then, with just over 100km remaining, a 19-man group managed to get ahead. South Africa’s Ryan Gibbons of Dimension Data was among them.
They gained real ascendency when they quickly created a one-and-a-half minute gap, extending it to three-and-a-half minutes with 88km to go.
Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot was the GC threat among the escapees, as teams from within the peloton felt the Frenchman’s advantage.
The likes of Astana Pro, Mitchelton-Scott and Movistar were wary of Pinot’s presence in the break and keen not to give him too much leeway.
However, the gap rose to four-and-a-half minutes with 85km left. Pinot and Dylan Teuns then decided to attack from within the breakaway and created a 30-second lead.
With 60km remaining Pinot dropped Teuns and went solo. His lead was precarious and the breakaway managed to catch him again, though Pinot and teammate Leo Vincent pinned themselves at the front.
The gap dropped to two minutes and 40 seconds with 45km left.
On a fast descent the breakaway began stringing out and Bauke Mollema took control at the head of affairs before creating a 20-second lead.
Pinot joined Mollema at the front and took the virtual race lead as the gap from the peloton went up to three minutes and 12 seconds.
Pinot was joined by seven other riders at the front, 33 seconds ahead of a 10-man chasing group and three minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the peloton with just less than 30km to go.
De Marchi and Restrepo headed the race within the last 20km, creating a 45-second lead with 15km to go.
With 10km to go, De Marchi and Restrepo took on some descents and the race by then looked like coming down to a dual sprint finish.
Before the stage Pinot was two minutes and 33 seconds behind Yates on the GC and within the last 10km the Groupama-FDJ rider held a three-minute-and-five-second lead over the peloton, maintaining his virtual race lead.
However, in the last 5km Pinot lost his virtual lead as the peloton narrowed the gap to two minutes and 29 seconds.
De Marchi’s experience came through as he eventually managed to create a sizeable gap to outlast Restrepo at the end.
The breakaway group, which included Pinot, wavered in the closing kilometres as the GC riders made up a lot of time to eventually only lose out to Pinot by 10 seconds.
“If I waited for the sprint, then for sure I’d have finished second,” De Marchi said afterwards. “The only option I had was to try everything on the last climb.
“Honestly, I didn’t have my best legs, but it was just in the mind. At one moment today I just said that I just had to keep trying, because it was a real battle. Every move I made was looking like the good one.”