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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Nacer Bouhanni wins Stage 6 on a day backloaded with action

Jack Elton-Walters
30 Aug 2018

Nacer Bouhanni wins the stage, but the bigger story is a crash and time losses for some GC riders

Nacer Bouhanni won Stage 6, which until the closing stages had been a quiet day at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana. Behind the fast finishing winner were Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), who fell short of their first and second stage wins of this year's race.

Favourite for the day, Viviani, lost his leadout man on a late roundabout and couldn't get back on terms with the fast moving front of the race.

As well as the stage win, several General Classication riders were also winners on the day after a crash followed by crosswinds saw others contenders caught out behind a split.

Looking back at Stage 6 of the Vuelta

Two third category climbs were enough to see Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) in the breakaway once again, looking for the points needed to keep the blue and white polkadot mountains jersey on his shoulders.

More surprising was the presence of Richie Porte (BMC Racing), who entered the race with an eye on the overall General Classification.

His chances of high placing at the end of the three weeks was soon ended when he lost time in the opening stages, but his reported focus is the upcoming World Championships. The Vuelta is a training ride rather than a target, apparently.

The third and final member of the day's breakaway was Jorge Cubero (Burgos BH), and the trio rode along well together for much of the day.

The break's advantage went out to over three minutes but was pegged back by a fairly relaxed looking peloton and held nearer to two minutes as the sprinters' teams looked to win one of the few stages open to the quick men.

That gap went up and down within a range of about 30 seconds up to 2:30 as the peloton seemingly became aware that it was gaining on the break too far out from the finish line.

A stiff headwind was in evidence which went someway to stalling the progress on the road, affecting the three man group out front far more than the rotating peloton.

The main bunch then switched the pace back on and was strung out in one line as the gap to the break dropped by a whole minute.

A crash that looked to have been caused by an unmanned, unmarked traffic island shortly before a windy exposed road saw the peloton split into many small groups.

Those chasing were forced into echelons in the hope of getting back to the Quick-Step Floors powered main peloton, or what was left of it.

EF-Drapac took over the pace making at the front, pushing the wind for rivals such as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). The men in pink had strength in numbers and played to their own advantage.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Sagan were seen in conversation, potentially discussing a neutralisation for the benefit of those affected by the crash, but with the wind blowing the race was on and the main group continued to ride.

The original breakaway was caught with around 13km to go but their plight had long since become irrelevant as a result of what was going on behind and then ahead of them.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was one of the big name riders caught out and saw himself over a minute behind some GC rivals with 11.4km to go.

After such a sedate day until the unlabelled road cone caused crashes and splits, there was enough action in the last 20km for anyone tuning in late to think it had been exciting all day.

The lead group, despite having fewer riders than the now combined chase - after groups two and three came back together - was still taking time.

This was thanks to the combined ambitions of the remaining sprinters wanting the stage and the GC riders who made the split attempting to gain maximum time of those contenders much further back down the road.

Into the final and the chase was still driving but making little progress on the fast moving sprint trains.