Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) took a fantastic win on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España after attacking from the breakaway 70 km from the summit finish.
The last stage before the first rest day played out across a climb-stacked 188 km route with a summit finish on the hors-category Alto de Velefique. The attacks began soon after the peloton left Puerto Lumbreras, but it took almost two hours and 70 km for an 11-strong breakaway to escape. Ineos Grenadiers took over at the front of the peloton and the race settled down a little, but the reprieve was brief.
The break’s advantage was back to within 90 seconds on the lower slopes of the first-category Alto Collado Venta Luisa, the longest climb of the Vuelta. Feeling the peloton breathing down his neck, Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) accelerated away from his fellow escapees halfway up the 29.2 km mountain, and no one could follow.
Ineos continued to lead the group of favourites around two minutes behind Caruso – who started the day 6:47 down on GC after losing time in the crosswinds on stage 6 – until about 40 km to go when they stopped riding. With the peloton stalling, Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën) attacked from its flank and rode his way up to the small chasing group, where he spent the remainder of the stage stuck in no man’s land. Meanwhile, Jumbo-Visma assumed control of the peloton and let the gap stretch out.
By the foot of the final 13.1 km climb, Caruso’s gap was 3:18 over the chasers and 5:15 over the red jersey group. The GC battle further down the mountain swept up the chasers and cut a good chunk out of his advantage, but Caruso stayed away to take a well-earned stage win. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was second to cross the line a little over a minute later, with Enric Mas (Movistar) just behind in third, the only favourite who could stick with the race leader.
Roglič strengthened his lead on GC after weathering the repeated attacks on the final climb, and Mas moves up to second overall. Further down the standings, Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) all but dropped out of contention, finishing 5:04 behind his teammate, but Jack Haig’s leap up to fourth overall keeps Bahrain-Victorious in the GC race. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) also seemed to struggle in the face of repeated attacks, some of them by his teammates. Even so, he only lost 1:05 to Roglič and remains the best-placed Ineos rider going into the first rest day.
La Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) Puerto-Lumbreras → Alto de Velefique