Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo hammered home his advantage in the Vuelta a España sprint classification, with his third victory of the race on stage 19 in Talavera de la Reina.
The British rider Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) was second and Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin–Deceuninck) third after a technical run-in that featured a succession of roundabouts and a hairpin bend with 1.1km remaining.
The overall race leader, Remco Evenepoel of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, comfortably defended his advantage of 2min 07sec, now with just two stages of the race to go.
“It’s never easy in a final like this because it’s a lot of good guys in the peloton,” Pedersen said afterwards. “If one of them comes with an attack on one of the roundabouts, I would be the guy to close it and then it would be hard to sprint, so I was really happy with the speed the boys could keep.
“Three wins is way more than we came here for, so that’s super, super nice,” the Danish rider added. “No matter what, we can be happy with these three weeks in Spain.”
Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) launched a strong solo attack in the final kilometre, aiming to catch out the sprinters and their teams. The Australian gained a small advantage on the chasing pack, but Pedersen was eventually perfectly positioned to sprint for the line and hold off Wright, who is second in the points classification, albeit 205 points behind after this stage.
Fierce racing and potential challenges to Evenepoel’s GC supremacy had been expected on a 138.3km circuit-race stage that featured a double ascent of the Puerto del Pielago, a category-two ascent that tops out at 1,227m above sea level.
As it turned out, the racing was relatively relaxed with Trek-Segafredo controlling things all day for Pedersen, the former world road race champion. There were no significant attacks on the final major climb of the day, as had been widely predicted.
Having escaped inside the first 10km, the three-man breakaway of Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost) and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) was caught with 49km remaining, when the peloton was on the second ascent of the Puerto del Pielago. It was then left to Pedersen to assert his sprinting supremacy over Wright and the other fast men in the bunch.
Saturday’s stage 20 is the final mountain test of the race for Evenepoel as he aims to seal his first Grand Tour triumph. The 181km route between Moralzarzal and Puerto de Navacerrada takes in five categorised climbs, including three category ones.
Meanwhile, the three-times Vuelta champion, Primoz Roglic, has said he holds Wright of Bahrain-Victorious responsible for the crash that ended his race on stage 16. “The crash was not caused by a bad road or a lack of safety but by a rider’s behaviour,” Roglic said in a statement on the Jumbo-Visma website.
“I don’t have eyes on my back. Otherwise, I would have run wide. Wright came from behind and rode the handlebars out of my hands before I knew it.” Bahrain-Victorious are expected to release a statement in response on Friday evening.