Damiano Caruso wins mountain stage solo
After a 3rd place for Jan Tratnik in the short opening time trial of the Vuelta a España, Team Bahrain Victorious had to wait until the 9th stage to celebrate. With a long-range attack over 70 kilometers and three passes, Damiano Caruso showed his class and secured a solo stage win atop the Alto de Velefique. In the same stage Jack Haig moved up to 4th in the general classification.
Throughout the initial eight days of this year’s Vuelta a España the riders of Team Bahrain Victorious showed some cohesive team efforts. But apart from Jan Tratnik’s 3rd place in the short individual time trial that kicked off the race in Burgos, podium results were elusive as far as the first week of racing was concerned. This was to change on the last day of racing before the first rest day that served up more than 4000 vertical meters of ascending. Despite the demanding profile of this stage the initial two hours were races at an insane pace with no breakaway managing to go up the road. This only happened shortly before the intermediate sprint when eleven riders left the peloton behind in two groups. These two groups quickly merged and Team Bahrain Victorious was represented by Damiano Caruso in this breakaway.
It did not take this breakaway long to build a lead of three and a half minutes. But on the Alto Collado Venta Luisa, a cat1 climb over a distance of almost 30 kilometers the Ineos Grenadiers took charge of things in the group of overall contenders, drastically ramping up the pace and chopping away two minutes of the gap in no time. This was the moment for Damiano Caruso to leave his breakaway companions behind with 70 kilometers to go and to start an impressive solo effort over three passes. At the foot of the conclusive Alto de Velefique climb, his advantage over the group of overall contenders had grown to five minutes. As the captains of the respective teams started to attack each other the speed went up drastically, and one of the early victims of this acceleration was Mikel Landa. Mark Padun did a great job pacing the Basque rider up the mountain in order to limit the time loss.
Damiano Caruso rode on at his own pace and managed to keep a bit over a minute of his advantage, getting to enjoy his solo win to the full. On his long solo effort Caruso also collected plenty of points to take over the spotted KOM jersey of the best climber. in Damiano Caruso’s wake the fight between the overall contenders was in full swing. While Mikel Landa lost a couple of minutes on the way to the finish, Jack Haig only got better as the climb went further up. Two days after his 5th place on the Balcon de Alicante, the Australian followed up with a 4th place, allowing him to move up from 7th to 4th in the general classification. And since Gino Mäder finished this demanding stage in 7th place, a third rider of Team Bahrain Victorious got a top10 result and the team moved up to 2nd in the team classification.
After his stage win and before the podium ceremony, Damiano Caruso commented on how the stage had evolved from his point of view: «I knew the Ineos Grenadiers would ride a hard pace, and when the lead of our breakaway shrank at a fast pace I attacked with 70 kilometers to go. From there I worked hard to extend my lead as I knew I needed a solid buffer for the last climb. That climb to Alto de Velefique was so long - I just rode at my own pace, and it was not before the 2 kilometers to go sign that I realised that the stage win was mine. It’s a pity that Mikel was dropped on the last climb and lost time, but from my perspective I simply had to make the best of this opportunity.»
76TH VUELTA A ESPAÑA
STAGE 9: PUERTO-LUMBRERAS - ALTO DE VELEFIQUE, 188KM
1. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 5:03.14 hours
2. Primoz Roglic, SLO, + 1.05
3. Enric Mas, ESP, + 1.06
KOM CLASSIFICATION BEFORE THE FIRST REST DAY:
1. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, 28 points
2. Romain Bardet, FRA, 22 points
3. Pavel Sivakov, RUS, 16 points
YOUNG RIDERS’ CLASSIFICATION BEFORE THE FIRST REST DAY:
1. Egan Bernal, COL, in 34:20.45 hours
2. Aleksandr Vlasov, RUS, + 2.03
3. Gino Mäder, SUI/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 2.08
TEAM CLASSIFICATION BEFORE THE FIRST REST DAY:
1. Movistar Team, ESP, in 102:58.47 hours
2. TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, BHR, + 1.32
3. Team Jumbo-Visma, + 7.31