Wout Poels 6th at Vuelta a España
Team Bahrain-McLaren had come to the Vuelta a España with two objectives: First it wanted to escort Wout Poels to a good result in the overall standings, and second it was also on the hunt for a prestigious stage win. While the team missed out on its second goal, Poels equaled his best grand tour overall to date with a 6th place. And young Englishman Fred Wright scored a surprising top5 result at the end of the longest stage of this year’s race.
Following a strong performance under dismal weather conditions at the mountain top finish of Aramon Formigal, Wout Poels had moved from 17th to 11th in the overall standings before the first rest day of the Vuelta a España. A top10 result in the overall standings looked well in reach for the captain of Team Bahrain-McLaren. But the team had also lost two key support riders in the first three days of the race, as Matej Mohoric had crashed out and Grega Bole was forced to abandon the race due to digestive problems. Apart from Wout Poels, the five riders of the team remaining in the race after the first rest day all qualified for the young riders’ classification, being 25 years old or younger. Of these five riders the only one to already have finished a Grand Tour in his career was Welshman Scott Davies. And for Stevie Williams, the Vuelta a España was the first longer stage race that he lined up for after an injury related break of almost one and a half years.
Seen the situation Wout Poels focussed on marking his main rivals for the overall standings, on not getting caught out in echelons and on further moving up in the overall standings at the mountain top finished that were still to come. At the end of stage 8, Wout Poels climbed well in what was the second real mountain top finish of this year’s race, finishing the stage in 6th and moving up to 10th in the overall standings. At the two demanding mountain top finishes of Farrapona and Angliru, Wout Poels managed to stay with the best climbers for a long time before opting to ride at his own pace, keeping the time loss at the finish within small margins. As a reward for these performances Wout Poels moved up to 6th place in the overall standings after the ride to the famous Angliru. This did not change after the individual time trial that was ridden following the second rest day and where Poels finished in 11th.
The best stage result throughout this year’s edition of the Vuelta a España from Team Bahrain-McLaren’s perspective came courtesy of Fred Wright: In the finale of the longest stage of the race, the 21 year-old Englishman tried his hand at the sprint in Puebla de Sanabria and was rewarded with a 4th place. On the penultimate day of the race, the mountain top finish at Alto de la Covatilla offered one last chance to shake up the overall standings. Due to this reason the stage was ridden at a very high pace from the start, and the approach to the final climb posed a challenge in its own right. Just as at the other mountain top finishes, Wout Poels could not keep up with the most explosive climbers. But with one last and enormous effort, the Dutchman managed to defend his 6th place in the overall standings by less than 20 seconds.
Throughout this strange season cut in half by the Covid 19 pandemic, Team Bahrain-McLaren managed to get at least one rider into the top10 of all three Grand Tours: Mikel Landa finished the Tour de France in 4th place, with Pello Bilbao in 5th and Hermann Pernsteiner in 10th at the Giro d’Italia and now Wout Poels in 6th place at the Vuelta a España. This bodes pretty well for next year, when we hope the race calendar will be less affected by the pandemic.