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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Thibaut Pinot wins Stage 15 atop Covadonga

Peter Stuart
9 Sep 2018

Thibaut Pinot wins Stage 15 on the summit finish of Lagos de Covadonga, as Yates holds onto the red jersey

Thibaut Pinot took an impressive victory atop the Lagos de Covadonga today in a dramatic showdown with all the Vuelta GC contenders, which saw Miguel Angel Lopez coming in second, as Simon Yates managed to limit his losses and retain the red jersey.

The battle was fought between an elite selection of climbers, including Quintana, Valverde, Yates and Pinot on the extremely steep slopes of Covadonga de Lagos, the queen climb of the stage.

Yates repeatedly neutralised some of the most decisive moves of the climb, showing strong form as Lopez made a bid for victory and GC time gains.

At 6km to go, Pinot broke clear and established nearly a 30-second lead over the British rider. With a strong bid for the red jersey, Miguel Angel Lopez made several aggressive attacks, but never had the legs to break clear of Yates and Quintana.

A dramatic set of attacks followed. With all major GC contenders making a bid for stage victory, Pinot's margin was down to only 10 seconds at 4.7km to go, but the Frenchman managd to turn over an advantage on the famously steep 20% inclines at 2.2km to go on Covadonga.

Having been one of the most active riders in the lead group, Yates threw up his arms and refused to chase, leaving Lopez to spring off the front of the group. 

As they reached the final 1km downhill segment, Yates tracked Lopez but Pinot was allowed to stretch his lead to 26 seconds while Lopez gained only 2 seconds on Yates, who retains the red jersey and overall race lead.

How the Stage unfolded

With Simon Yates newly in the red jersey, and the famous ascent of the Covagonda set to mark the end of the stage, today was always going to be highly tense.

At only 178km, Stage 15 was short and sharp. It had four sharp ascents, and numerous uncategorised lumps which could easily fragment the main group, as indeed they did.

An early break was to be expected, as the first climb of Alto de Santio Emiliano was set to allow stronger climbers to ride free of the group. 

A strong group of 12 emerged containing Pierre Rolland (EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale), Bauke Mollema (Trek–Segafredo), Ben King (Dimensions Data) and Nicolas Roche (BMC).

The group extended its lead as far as 5 minutes 55 seconds, at around the 100km mark of the race. But Astana moved to the front of the pack to battle for a stage win for Miguel Angel Lopez, and gradually chipped into the lead.

The stage was set to ascend the Mirador del Fito twice. On paper it might have looked easy with only 6.3km at 7.7%, but it possesses a harsh 9.3% incline over 4.4km toward its summit. The first ascent came with 78km to go, and the second with only 40km. The ascent served to cut into the breakaway’s lead, but not bring them back to the main peloton.

At 41km remaining, over the top of the Mirador del Fito, Ben King took the summit finish win along with the King of the Mountains points, ahead of Bauke Mollema in distant 2nd. The break was just under 3-minute ahead of the red jersey group.

The final

There were several attacks within the breakaway group, and a significant one from Mollema, Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) with 30km to go.

The attack was reeled in, although Van Poppel and Nico Roche were both dropped off the front group with 25km to go, downsizing the group to 10 riders.

After an active race in the break, it was Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) who bravely broke off the front of the group once again, and established a gap at the front of the race

At 15km to go, Simon Yates created a brief scare when he disappeared from the group with a mechanical. Thankfully he emerged back, and the stage was set for the final 12.2km climb of Covagonda. 

At the start of the Covagonda, Garcia Cortina had a lead of around 45-seconds, as the main group was only 1.15 ahead of the peloton and seemed sure to be caught.

Once the peloton Garcia Cortina and the lead group, the race quickly whittled down to the major GC contenders, and the battle began.

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