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Pozo Alcon - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - illustration - scenery - carte postal scenic shot - postcard sfeerfoto - sfeer - illustratie pictured during 73rd La Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) Stage 7 from Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon (185.7 KM) - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

VUELTA’18: Ed’s First Rest Day Round Up!

Vuelta Rest Day No.1: The 2018 Vuelta a España has lived up to its reputation for excitement with full-on racing in the stage finalés. Ed Hood has not missed a pedal stroke in Spain to give us his round up of the first week’s fun. Can we guess who will be the final winner?

Read the PEZ Route Preview HERE and the PEZ Rider Pick HERE and the ‘First Week Photo Gallery’ HERE.

Lots of climbing to come

‘The Spanish Hill Climb Championship,’ Viktor, PEZ’s own Nostradamus in residence calls it; and this year apparently; ‘the field is inferior to the Tour of Britain, full of second rate Spanish and French riders.’ I did point out that the likes of Dennis, Valverde, Bouhanni, Kwiatkowski and Yates were hardly ‘second rate.’ But Vik would have none of it, citing Rudy Molard’s tenure in red as a sign of the race’s paucity of talent – but more of Molard in a moment. And as any Grand Tour rider will tell you; ‘the race is decided in the last week’ and we’ve only just finished the first week. . .

Simon Yates at the top of the pile after week one

Stage One:
No surprises as Rohan Dennis (BMC & Australia) becomes the first non-European to win a time trial stage in all three Grand Tours. Not such a good day for his team mate and countryman, Richie Porte whose Grand Tour jinx is in effect again – a bad tummy, this time round. Trek will be pleased.

A good ride from Kwiatkowski in the stage 1 TT

No surprises there, but Michal Kwiatkowski’s (Sky and Poland) second place among specialists like Castroviejo and Campenaerts told us much about his condition.

The first red jersey for Dennis

Stage Two:
Some things never change; the Vuelta organisers’ propensity to chuck in extremely testing hill top finishes early and Alejandro Valverde’s (Movistar and Spain) propensity to win on such stages. His ‘doper’ rep. sticks to him whilst the likes of David Miller and Brian Holm become accepted ‘cool hipster sages’; it’s the old ‘good doper’‘bad doper’ argument which I can never get my head round. Have a look at the length of his career and the quality of his palmarès then tell me that’s all down to ‘kit’. Aforementioned classy Pole, Kwiatkowski moved into red, but there’s a long, long way to go.

Stage 2 for Valverde

Kwiatkowski in red

Stage Three:
Elia Viviani and Quick-Step Floors, a marriage made in heaven as the Italian Champion makes it 16 wins for himself and an amazing 58 for the team during season 2018. A few more stats for you, this was Vuelta stage number 1,500 and Quick-Step’s 85th Grand Tour stage win. And let’s not forget Danish Champion, Michael Mørkøv’s part in all this; lead-out man extraordinaire.

Sprint King Viviani

Stage Four:
Glory be! The break ‘sticks’ and former US road and time trial champion, Ben King gives Dimension Data a much needed victory. It was 2016 when King last won a race, a stage in the Tour of California but his timing couldn’t have been better in a week where it was announced that the team’s star rider, Mark Cavendish would be on the side lines for an indefinite period due to Epstein-Barr virus.

Ben King takes a rare 2018 win for Dimension Data

Stage Five:
Encore! A hard worker from winless team takes the stage from a breakaway, substitute Simon Clarke for Ben King and Education First-Drapac for Dimension Data. I remember interviewing Simon when he won his last Vuelta stage in 2012; along the way there have been Tour and Giro TTT wins and A LOT of breakaways that didn’t make it – nice to see a ‘tryer’ get his reward. And Frenchman Rudy Molard goes into red to put a smile on the face of FDJ boss, Marc Madiot – we all know it’s a temporary situation but how many guys get to lead a Grand Tour, even for one day? Sky are happy to drop the red, hot potato and let the French guys do the hard yards on the front.

Simon Clarke took the win from the break

Molard in red

Stage Six:
Growing up in the 70’s one just accepted that sprinters were crazy; there was Kelly and Vanderaerden’s Mutually Assured Destruction pact, then there were Rik Van Linden, Marino Basso, Jacques Esclassan – all madmen. And in the 80’s we had Abdou v. Cipo. Journalist: ‘why don’t you and Abdou talk and try and sort things out between you, Mario?’ Mario: ‘I never plead with a woman!’

Montecassino - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alessandra De Stefano - Mario Cipollini pictured during Giro-D’Itaia 2014 stage 6 from Sassano - Montecassino 247km - photo IB/RB/Cor Vos © 2014
Mario: ‘I never plead with a woman!’

Things are a lot tamer these days and whilst I’m a fan of Viviani and Greipel, I do like Bouhanni’s touch of madness, it takes me back to my youth. ‘Chapeau, Monsieur!’

PEZ Roadside on Stage 6

Bouhanni – First of the french wins

Stage Seven:
France’s good Vuelta continued; Bouhanni the day before, Molard in red and now classy AG2R breakaway man Tony Gallopin timing it just right to frustrate Sagan and Valverde. The latter is going to make it difficult for Sagan to lift the points jersey here. Good to see the French guys not just, ‘making up the numbers’ and being a major part of the race.

Stage win for Gallopin

Stage Eight:
Talk of the devil, the same finish order but one-two, this time; that’s the Spaniard’s 13th win of the season – a big total for a non-pure sprinter. And despite strong Bora team work in the finale, Sagan frustrated again in second place. All the race favourites weren’t far behind today with the ‘real’ Vuelta starting tomorrow – and Molard pulling on his last red jersey of the race.

Stage win No.2 for Alejandro Valverde

Stage Nine:
‘King for a day,’ goes the line in the Van Morrison song, he got that wrong as Ben King transformed Dimension Data’s Vuelta from good to very good with his second stage win of the race. Behind him the GC began to take shape and the names we mentioned in the PEZ Vuelta preview began to show. And it was; ‘ciao Rudy’ as Molard went back to being a domestique, dropped early on the La Covatilla finish climb. Giro hero, Simon Yates took his jersey as the race began to take real shape. Valverde missed the jersey by a single tick of the second hand – but it’s hard to see him living with the pure climbers during the savage last week of this race. Kwiatkowski lost a minute and is at 2:10 with surely any hope of a podium finish gone? But star Columbian trio, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) are all where they’d like to be, safely in the top 10 overall.

Lopez and the other Colombians should show more in the weeks to come

Ben King again

Surprising German, Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is in fourth spot and Stephen Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo and The Netherlands) is in ninth place – It’ll be interesting to see where they are after the second rest day. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates & Italy) can’t be happy to be a minute back whilst Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac and Canada) and Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates and Ireland) at 22 minutes and 30 minutes respectively must be thinking about mountain escapes – or maybe laying on a beach?

La Vuelta leaves the coast behind

Hostilities resume on Tuesday with Stage 10 – it should be for the sprinters but the baroudeurs will no doubt try their hand.

Cobbles in Spain!

Until next Monday, hasta luego!

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,600 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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