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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Wallays wins from break to hold off charging Sagan

A dull day bursts into life with 5km to go as the break pull off a surprise win

Joe Robinson
13 Sep 2018

Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) took a nail-biting sprint finish into Lleida as the breakaway survived the clutches of the peloton at the end of Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.

The Lotto rider managed to outsprint fellow break rider Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) and also hold off a rampaging Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who had launched an early sprint from the peloton behind.

The gap between the break and the peloton was slim heading into the final kilometre but it soon became apparent that the main group would not make the catch. Sagan made his best efforts to close the gap in the final 300m but the Belgian Wallays did just enough to hold on.

In terms of general classification, there was no change. The flat parcour saw the top 10 roll in together leaving Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) two more days in the mountains to defend his 25-second lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Tomorrow, the race heads towards Andorra with a summit finish on the mighty climb of the Coll de la Rabassa after 154.4km of racing.

Back to the flats

Yesterday's stage through the Basque Country took the Vuelta peloton through the low-lying mist until the summit of the Monte Oiz, a new goat path discovered in the northernmost corners of Spain.

Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) took an emotional victory while Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) shook the fellow GC riders off before the line.

Valverde scrapped eight seconds back from race leader Yates while teammate Nairo Quintana conceded almost a minute, effectively ending his overall ambitions.

Today promised to be a slight respite for the main contenders with a flat 186.1km run from Ejea de los Caballeros to Lleida. 

The day proved pretty formulaic with a breakaway nipping off the front and the peloton happily obliging their attacks. The trio up front for the day was Sven Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates), Jetse Bol (BH-Burgos) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal).

The three worked well together, keeping a gap of over two minutes with under 30km left to run. The pace-setting behind was largely left to Quick-Step Floors - in aid of Elia Viviani - and Bora-Hansgrohe for Sagan. Could Viviani take yet another win or would the World Champion finally break his Vuelta duck?

The finish town of Lleida had been the host of sprint finishes before. Mark Cavendish had won there previously, as well as Malcolm Elliot, making it a happy hunting ground for the Brits.

In all honesty, the racing was largely dull which was understandable. With no wind, there was little incentive for chances to go on the attack and the GC boys were looking to rest with two days left in the mountains.

Less than 20km to go and the gap to the three leaders stuttered at around 90 seconds then routinely began to fall as the kilometres ticked by. 10 seconds was lost in almost 2km. By the 10km to go banner, the gap was under one minute. The catch looked likely, if by no means guaranteed.

Bol began to struggle with the pace of the break leaving just two up front in the final 5km.

As they came into the final kilometre it became apparent that the peloton had left it too late. Sagan attempted an early sprint to surprise the two leaders but his efforts were rewarded only by third on the line, with Wallays proving the strongest in a nail-biting finish.

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