At the sharp end without a victory
At the Vuelta a España as the season’s third Grand Tour, Team Bahrain Victorious missed out on winning a stage. The highlights were provided mostly by Fred Wright who sprinted to a series of top results and finished the race in 2nd in the points standings. As the 4th place in the team classification goes to show, the team performed better than a simple look at the stage winner would suggest.
One year ago the Vuelta a España was a big success for Team Bahrain Victorious as Jack Haig made the jump onto the GC podium by finishing the race in 3rd overall. In addition, Gino Mäder won the young riders’ classification and the team won the team classification as well. When compared to this high standard, this year’s performance lacked some true highlights. Neither Mikel Landa nor Gino Mäder or Luis Leon Sanchez could match the pace of the best climbers in the mountains. The team was further weakened as it lost two key assisting riders for the mountains due to positive Covid tests with Wout Poels and Santiago Buitrago. Despite these setbacks the team still managed to finish the Grand Tour in 4th in the team classification. This result goes to show that the riders in red, orange and black were pretty active and could be seen joining breakaways again and again. Unfortunately the riders could not keep up with the fastest climbers in mountain stages and thus could not contest for stage wins.
The rider who got closest to that elusive stage win was young Englishman Fred Wright who confirmed his excellent form from the third week of the Tour de France, being the most active rider of his team at the Vuelta a España. Wright rode attentively, made it into the breakaway repeatedly and also showed some serious speed by achieving top5 and top10 results in bunch sprints, proving he’s much more than a very promising all-rounder. These performances on a constantly high level over three weeks were rewarded with a 2nd place in the points standings, only beaten by triple stage winner Mads Pedersen. As for the overall standings, Mikel Landa was the best-placed rider of Team Bahrain Victorious in 15th, with his compatriot Luis Leon Sanchez following suit in 16th and Gino Mäder in 20th on GC. This also put the Swiss rider in 6th place in the young riders' classification that he had won one year earlier.
Last week also saw the two Canadien World Tour races of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec et Montréal return to the calendar - both races being ridden on circuits with a number of ascents. As for the first race in Québec, Team Bahrain Victorious saw two of its riders finish in the first group chasing solo winner Benoît Cosnefroy, with Pello Bilbao in 12th and Jan Tratnik in 16th. Two days later the more demanding circuit in Montréal and the brutally hard pace throughout the last hour of racing made for a much stricter selection, with only five riders fighting for the win in the end. Pello Bilbao crossed the finish line 28 seconds adrift in 9th place. As for the week ahead, Team Bahrain Victorious will be lining up for two one-day races in Italy with the Coppa Sabatini and the Memorial Marco Pantani.
77TH VUELTA A ESPAÑA, STAGE 19: TALAVERA DE LA REINA - TALAVERA DE LA REINA, 138.3KM
1. Mads Pedersen, DEN in 3:19.11 hours
2. Fred Wright, GBR/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Gianni Vermeersch, BEL, st
FINAL POINTS STANDINGS:
1. Mads Pedersen, DEN, 409 points
2. Fred Wright, GBR/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, 186 points
3. Enric Mas, ESP, 138 points
Photos: Sprint Cycling Academy