Vuelta a Espana 2020
Jasper Philipsen took stage 15 of the Vuelta a España 2020 in a very select sprint after an incredibly difficult stage that happened to be the longest of the entire race.
Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) managed to hold off the power of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jannik Steimle (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) to throw his arms in the air after a gruelling race through the wind and rain.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) held on to the red jersey as he finished along with the other overall contenders.
The riders set out on what was the longest day of the day between Mos and Puebla de Sanabria over 230.8km taking in five category three climbs along with several uncategorised climbs.
It was a very fast start as riders tried to get up into the breakaway, and after a couple of large incarnations of the break went and were brought back, 13 riders eventually stayed away.
Those riders were Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Mattia Cattaneo (Decuninick – Quick-Step), Nick Schultz (Mitchelton-Scott), Luis León Sánchez (Astana), José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar), Robert Power (Sunweb), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Julien Simon (Total Direct Energie), Mark Donovan (Sunweb), Jonathan Lastra (Caja-Rural), Alex Aranburu (Astana), Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).
The break managed a maximum time gap of 5-45 but the peloton started to peg them back and brought the gap down to 2-15 with 55km to go. This saw two-time stage winner, Wellens, sit up and drop back to the peloton.
Behind, the peloton was being controlled by Ineos Grenadiers, Trek-Segafredo, NTT Pro Cycling and Bora-Hansgrohe.
The gap continued to drop to 40 seconds as the rain closed in on the riders. Then Cattaneo started pressing on solo with 30km to go, which saw the rest of the break left looking at each other, Cattaneo managed to pull out 1-28 in a very short amount of time.
Sánchez started to drill the pace in the chasing group for his team-mate, Aranburu, as Lastra and Stannard were the first to drop back to the peloton but they were still 1-27 down on Cattaneo.
The peloton was closing in to the chasing group however, and this saw Gino Mader (NTT Pro Cycling) try and bridge to the group that was stuck in no man’s land between the lead and the peloton.
Mader caught and very quickly dropped the chase group with 18km to go but he was 1-15 behind Cattaneo as the rain was joined by fog with the leader starting the descent towards the line.
The peloton brought the main group of chasers back with 12km to go as Bora-Hansgrohe really started upping the pace with Mader brought back a kilometre later. The gap up to Cattaneo was 1-04 at that point.
More and more teams started to come to the front as they could see that the gap was coming down to Cattaneo as he was riding straight into a stiff headwind.
They caught the Italian with 3km to go as Lotto-Soudal, Bora-Hansgrohe, NTT Pro Cycling, UAE Team Emirates and several other teams started to fight for control.
But it was Mitchelton-Scott who led the peloton into the final kilometre and the gradual climb up to the finish line.
It was led out by Deceuninck – Quick-Step, but with 150 metres to go, Jasper Philipsen launched and no-one could get near him.
Ackermann and a fast-finishing Steimle did their best but could not get on terms with the young Belgian. British rider, Fred Wright (Bahrain-McLaren) managed a superb fourth.
The Vuelta continues on tomorrow with another undulating test – the 162km Stage 16 from Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo. With two categorised climbs on the menu and a near insurmountable lead in the KOM standings, Frenchman Martin will hope to secure the polka dot jersey.
But while Roglic’s grip on green is also very much in the bag, the race for red will come down to the wire – with tomorrow’s penultimate stage concluding on the Alto de la Covatilla and promising a bitter battle between the main GC contenders.