Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) produced a powerful kick to the line, taking a sublime sprint victory on stage eight of the Vuelta a España today. It was the German rider’s second stage success in a Grand Tour following his stage win at the 2016 Giro d’Italia.
The penultimate day of racing before the first rest day saw the peloton take on a testing stage, with a difficult climb cresting with only 30 kilometres left in the day. With it being a tricky finale that on paper appeared too hard for the sprinters but too easy for the GC riders, it looked to be a good day to be in the breakaway. As a result, there was a fierce battle in the opening 25 kilometres before a large group of 21 riders broke clear.
Amonsgt the riders to make it into the break were former red jersey Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team), Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step), David de la Cruz (Team Ineos), Nikias Arndt and Martijn Tusveld (Team Sunweb), Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates) along with stage 6 winner Jesús Herrada (Cofidis).
Initially their gap was held at roughly four minutes, but as the peloton headed towards the categorised climb, the gap was out to six minutes with 40 kilometres to go. It was on that climb that the pace increased, with those stronger on the ascents looking to drop the faster riders.
It was at that point that the rain started to pour down, making the descent a bit more treacherous. Team Sunweb’s Martijn Tusveld sensed an opportunity and managed to break clear with Fernando Barceló (Euskadi-Murias) and Ruben Guerreiro (Katusha Alpecin), allowing Arndt to sit in the wheels behind and save energy.
Entering the final five kilometres Tusveld’s group was about to be caught before he counter attacked and got a gap. Unfortunately, he slid out on a roundabout but managed to get back onto the bike and finish the stage. Arndt stayed attentive at the front of the breakaway and followed the attacks as they made their way to the finish in Igualada. On the uphill drag to the line Arndt timed his sprint perfectly, producing a powerful kick and winning the stage by a couple of bike lengths ahead of Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal).
“It’s amazing,” said Arndt at the finish. “Yesterday I said I wanted to go in the breakaway today but to be there and to take the win is unbelievable; I’m super happy. Martijn helped me really well and the team worked great together. I think we played it very smart, with Martijn in the break who could attack while I sat back and waited for the sprint. It was good that he was up front in the closing kilometres so I could save some energy.
“In the finale I was just following all of the attacks and stayed in the game. I felt really good and I knew I was fast enough to win the sprint from the break, so I had to keep it together. It’s definitely one of my best days in my career so far.”