Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac) sprinted to victory from a breakaway on stage five of the Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday as Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) surprisingly moved into the race leader’s red jersey.
The breakaway during the 188.7km stage from Granada to Roquetas de Mar saw 25 riders leave the main peloton behind after an hour of racing.
Splits then started to form in the break, with Italian Alessandro de Marchi distancing himself from the rest of the course with 65km remaining.
Clarke and Bauke Mollema bridged the gap with just over 50km left and the trio stayed out in front, the Australian making his move in the final 100 meters to secure victory.
Molard, 26, who finished eight seconds behind Clarke in the chasing group, moved into the overall race lead, making up over 3-1/2 minutes on Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished with the peloton 4:55 adrift of Clarke.
“It’s just amazing. I worked so hard since I last won a stage here, and I just couldn’t repeat it. It’s taken me so long to get back there and have my stars aligned,” said Clarke, whose only previous grand stour stage win was at the 2012 Vuelta.
“Even today I wasn’t sure it was possible. I knew I had good legs, but when you have a breakaway with so many riders, the cooperation is never very good.
“As we saw, the winning move went on the descent. It was a tricky one to pick. I knew I had good legs and I just had to pray that the moves I was doing were the right ones.
“It’s such a long stage. It’s so hard to sprint after that. I was cramping when Mollema attacked and I just rode through it. I backed myself.
“I was so worried they would catch us from behind, but in that situation you just have to be as cold as ice. You’ve got to be willing to lose to win; I was, and I came out on top.”
Kwiatkowski dropped to second overall, 1:01 behind Molard with the other main contenders further back including Mitchelton-Scott rider Simon Yates at 1:11 down plus Alejandro Valverde of Movistar (1:13) and team mate Nairo Quintana (1:34).
Thursday will likely see a sprint stage, with no climbs of note across 155.7km of the Mediterranean coast from Huercal-Overa to San Javier. Mar Menor.
Vuelta a Espana 2018 – stage 5 results (Granada – Roquetas de Mar):
|1||Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac)|
|2||Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)|
|3||Alessandro De Marchi (BMC)|
|4||Davide Villella (Astana)|
|5||Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|6||Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ)|
|7||Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal)|
|8||Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA)|
|9||Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida)|
|10||Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data)|
|11||Andrey Amador (Movistar)|
|12||Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates)|
|13||Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha-Alpecin)|
|14||Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida)|
|15||Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias)|
|16||Brent Bookwalter (BMC)|
|17||Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|18||Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb)|
|19||Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo)|
|20||Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky)|
General classification after stage 5:
|1||Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ)|
|2||Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)|
|3||Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe)|
|4||Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)|
|5||Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)|
|6||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)|
|7||Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida)|
|8||Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale)|
|9||Nairo Quintana (Movistar)|
|10||Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|11||Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors)|
|12||Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe)|
|13||Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)|
|14||George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo)|
|15||Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)|
|16||Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)|
|17||Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac)|
|18||David De La Cruz (Team Sky)|
|19||Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida)|
|20||Benjamin King (Dimension Data)|