Mads Pedersen proves best again in Vuelta bunch sprint, Wright second once more

Day's breakaway at La Vuelta controlled as GC riders keep powder dry.

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This story first appeared on VeloNews.com.

Mads Pedersen scooped his third stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España, taking a big bunch sprint on Friday’s stage 19 to Talavera de la Reina. The Dane beat British rider Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) and Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) to the line, further adding to his points in the green jersey competition.

Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) were fourth and fifth, with the general classification contenders also in that bunch. Overall leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) maintains his red jersey and realistically only has Saturday’s penultimate stage to worry about before taking his first grand tour win.

The twin-mountain stage featured a three man breakaway by the American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), who went away after about eight kilometers. They built a lead of almost four minutes, with another American Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) trying unsuccessfully to bridge across.

The trio were ultimately hauled back with 49km remaining, after which the sprinters’ teams worked to keep things together. Pedersen’s Trek-Segafredo did the bulk of the work and their faith was rewarded when he proved best in the finale.

How it played out

Stage 19 of the Vuelta a España both started and finished in the city of Talavera de la Reina. Totaling 138.3 kilometers, the stage comprised two laps of a large circuit taking in the Puerto del Piélago climb.

The category two ascent was just 9.3 km in length and 5.6 percent average gradient, making it difficult for any would-be attackers to try to gain time on race leader Remco Evenepoel. A further complication was the long distance from the top of the mountain to the finish, with 42.2 largely downhill kilometers taking the riders to the line.

Riders started firing off attacks immediately and after a 16 rider group went clear and were then hauled back, three others clipped away. The American Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) had 12 seconds after 10km of racing, quickly gained 1:50 and edged the gap further upwards.

American rider Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) made a huge effort to get across and had closed to within 40 seconds of the leaders by the top of the first ascent of the Puerto del Piélago, 30.5km after the start.

Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma) joined forces with Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to try to bridge but were 3:26 behind at the prime line, 20 seconds ahead of the peloton. Those two chasers were subsequently caught, while Craddock got to within 38 seconds but then drifted back and was reabsorbed with 75km remaining.

Okamika took the top points at the intermediate sprint at Hinojosa de San Vicente (km 81.7), with Caicedo second and McNulty third. The Bahrain-Victorious led bunch was drawing ever closer and those three were reeled in with 49km remaining.

Building towards a big bunch sprint

The anticipated salvo of attacks amongst the GC riders didn’t happen, with king of the mountains Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) leading Gregor Mühlberger and Enric Mas (both Movistar Team) over the summit. There appeared to be an acceptance that the day would go down to a bunch sprint and the Trek-Segafredo team of Mads Pedersen and the Bahrain-Victorious squad of Fred Wright were working to keep the speed high and fend off any attacks.

Trek-Segafredo continued to do the bulk of the work towards the finish, with Kenny Elissonde in particular impressing with his efforts. The other teams started to cluster near the front with just over 5km to go, Jumbo-Visma leading them into the final kilometer.

Trek-Segfredo still had more to give and swept forward again for Pedersen. Miles Scotson (Groupama FDJ) launched an early jump but was hauled back, with Pedersen then turning on the jets and holding off Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) for win number three.

He further added to his points total in the green jersey competition, but had already done enough to win that classification prior to the stage start.

Evenepoel is also close to celebrating, but needs to maintain his concentration and fend off any surprises on Saturday’s big decider atop the Puerto de Navacerrada.

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