Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) reduced his overall deficit to race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) with a daring attack on the final descent of stage 10 of the Vuelta a España. The Irishman went clear on the Collado Bermejo and crossed the finish line 29 seconds of Froome.
Roche’s time gain sees him remain in third place but trail Froome by 36 seconds and equal the time of Esteban Chaves (ORICA-SCOTT) who sits in second place.
After the first rest day, the peloton faced torrential rain in the first half of the race and a blistering pace of 50km/hour in the first 90 minutes of racing, which prevented a breakaway from going clear.
With 70km remaining on the 164.8km stage, an 18-rider breakaway eventually went clear and the peloton sat up to allow the group to extend an advantage of over five minutes.
Attacks in the breakaway started on the category three Alto del Morrón de Totana where four leaders went clear.
Behind, in the General Classification group, a fast pace caused many riders to drop off the back and soon it was just a small selection of riders remaining, including Roche and Tejay van Garderen, who started the day in fifth overall.
Roche attacked on the descent and was able to distance himself from the General Classification group and pushed hard to extend his advantage on the run into the finish.
On the descent, it was Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) and José JoaquÍn Rojas (Movistar Team) who went clear from the group of four leading riders and eventually went head to head in a sprint for the line with Trentin claiming the win.
The peloton faces another General Classification day on stage 11 with two category one climbs in the finale.
Nicolas Roche: “It was a good day. It wasn’t really planned to go on the descent but when I saw Vincenzo Nibali making a gap, I tried to get around the other GC riders and came back onto Vincenzo and then opened a bit of a gap. I said “let’s go and see what happens”. Today, the pace was quite high and you could see that everybody was still there until the last kilometer when Vincenzo did a proper attack. I think there are 10 or 12 riders who are on a very similar level.”
“I’ve never been here. I know I’m not the worst descender in the peloton and I thought today could be an opportunity. I had a few scares in those hairpins. I’m not a big fan of those descent finishes but today it worked out. Tomorrow is going to be very different. I know the shape is there, I’m definitely in great condition but tomorrow is definitely a big test with the high mountains.
“I haven’t been doing anything crazy. I was always in the back of that little group making sure that I don’t throw away energy going after everything. So, I think I rode pretty conservatively trying to hang on on those steep mountains. Today was the only day when I gave it a proper go in the final and my legs were in bits when I crossed the line.”