Philippe Gilbert took his tenth Grand Tour stage victory at the Vuelta a España today. The Belgian held off the chasers after attacking out of the break and netted Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 59th win of the season.
Gilbert was part of the 19-man breakaway that got away after a hectic first two hours and they quickly opened a five-minute gap over the bunch. The former World Champion had teammate Tim Declercq for company, and “El Tractor” turned out to be instrumental in the final outcome, as he permanently chased down the attackers from the group and made sure it was all together at the start of the last climb, the leg-sapping Alto de Arraiz (2.2km, 12.2%), where the fans came in huge numbers and created an electric atmosphere.
Gilbert led up the ascent, forcing a selection and reducing the group to just three men with Alexander Aranburu (Caja Rural) and Fernando Barceló (Euskadi-Murias) the other riders to join Gilbert.
Once they took on the double-digit gradients of Arraiz, the multiple Monument winner made his move, dropping the two Spaniards and opening a hefty gap by the time he hit the top and started the fast descent. Despite losing a few seconds, Gilbert looked at all times in control as he went under the flamme rouge and onto the finishing straight, where he finally sat up and celebrated his victory. Aranburu took second place ahead of Barceló three seconds behind Gilbert.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) finished in the reduced peloton and held on to the race leader’s jersey ahead of Friday’s 13th stage.
“There was a lot of headwind in the first part of the stage, but that didn’t stop us, and we attacked and joined many moves, but the bunch reacted each time. It was pretty chaotic, but we kept attacking and at one point, I went full gas on a descent. Tim came across, some other guys joined us, and together we opened a small gap which we kept increasing. Tim was so important, he did a brilliant job, especially before the last ascent, where he closed the gap on the two leaders, and I’m grateful to him for his help. From there, all I had to do was race smart and stick to my plan, which I did and now I’m satisfied it all paid off”, said Gilbert.
“On the last climb, the atmosphere was crazy! It was like in the classics, with all the flags and everything, and the fans gave me a lot of motivation. I am happy to score a tenth Grand Tour stage win – a nice number – and I’m happy that it came in the beautiful Basque Country, which in my opinion is very similar to Flanders, as they have a profound love for cycling also here.”