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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Nikias Arndt wins Stage 8 as Lopez loses his red jersey again

Pete Muir
31 Aug 2019

A rain-soaked stage suits the breakaway, with Subweb getting a much-needed win

Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) won Stage 8 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana with a sprint win after staying in a day-long breakaway. Second place went to Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), with the last spot on the podium going to Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal).

Heavy rain affected the race, meaning that the peloton was not able to control the gap to the 21-strong break, and by the end of the day Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) had lost his red jersey – again – to Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) was also in the break, and he now sits in second place on GC, 2min 21sec behind Arndt. Lopez is now in third place, at 3min 01sec.

The main GC contenders all came home at the same time, meaning that Lopez still leads Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) in fourth place by 6sec, followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at another 16sec, and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) at 27sec further back.

With plenty more mountains to come, it looks increasingly likely that this quartet will be the riders fighting for the overall win in Madrid.

The story of the stage

Stage 8 of the 2019 Vuelta was always going to be one for the breakaway. A hilly parcours over 167km ensured that it was neither right for the pure climbers nor the sprinters. A reasonably tough climb 35km from the finish was enough to put off any teams who thought they might be able to nurse their sprinters to the line.

What's more, the peloton was still smarting from the previous stage's brutal finish with its 20% gradients, and many riders were equally keen to preserve their energy for the following day's stage, with its five tough climbs in the space of 95km.

As such, a break was quick to establish, with most teams having a rider in contention. Among the 21 riders up the road, the ones to watch were Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck–QuickStep). 

The GC contenders stayed safe in the peloton, which was happy to watch the break go. Not that they could relax completely. The break included Edet, who was only 6min 24sec down on GC, so Astana was obliged to ride on the front to protect the red jersey of Lopez.

The break maintained a steady lead of between three and five minutes as the race rolled through the countryside of northeast Spain, near Barcelona.

Only when the break arrived at the category 2 climb of Puerto de Monserrat did the attacks start to come.

First to react was Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), who managed to pull out 25 seconds on his rivals. However, the climb wasn't long enough or steep enough (7.4km at 6.6%) for him to establish a lead that could stick.

Stetina was joined by Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi-Murias) and Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) and they went over the top of the top of the climb with just 15 seconds on the rest of the chasing pack.

A sudden downpour of rain meant that any daredevil downhill racing was cancelled, and the 21 riders of the break were all back together with 25km to go.

In the meantime, with the peloton in cruise mode, the break managed to increase the gap to over 7min, which effectively put Edet into the red jersey.

With the weather worsening, a trio of riders braved slippery conditions to push off the front, but their lead was quickly pulled back when the gradients flattened out in the last 7km.

With 3km to go, a pack of 18 riders were fighting for the win. Stybar pushed ahead with 2km to go, and looked like he might hold on, but his energy faded and he was hauled back by the chasers.

In the final sprint, Arndt proved to be the strongest, to give Sunweb the win they so badly needed.