Vuelta a España: Alaphilippe rides to seventh from the break
David De La Cruz sits in fifth overall after the first uphill finish of this edition, while Matteo Trentin continues to lead the points standings.
Julian Alaphilippe was part of a strong and large escape group which snapped the elastic minutes after the start of Vuelta a España stage 5 and went on to open a seven-minute advantage over the peloton. The 17 breakaway riders worked together on the undulating route, which featured five classified ascents between Benicassim and Alcossebre, until they hit the penultimate climb, where the tempo was disrupted by several attacks.
On the descent leading to the Ermita Santa Lucia – a 3.4km-long steep ascent averaging 10% – Alaphilippe found himself in a three-man chasing group which was around 30 seconds down on the leading duo, but despite the serious amount of work and strong effort put in by the 25-year-old Frenchman, they couldn't get close to the small group up the road, from which Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked inside the final three kilometers and got a solo win.
The climb had the riders constantly change their pace, as it alternated 8% ramps with gradients exceeding 18%, so Julian decided to ride his own tempo, one which didn't push him into the red. The Quick-Step Floors rider, who is making just his second appearance in a stage race after returning to the peloton following a lengthy period of recovery caused by a knee injury, concluded stage 5 in seventh position, a result which gives him confidence for the next two weeks of the Vuelta.
"If you don't try, you never win, and today I wanted to try something. I am still easing back into racing, so I wanted to see how far I could go on this stage which normally would have suited me. I'm not satisfied with the result, but I'm happy with the legs, because I could feel that I'm slowly getting into shape, and this is the positive thing I'll take from this stage", said Julian, who remained confident other opportunities will come, for both him and the team. "We've had a really good Vuelta so far and I'm sure we will get many other good results if we keep riding like this."
Several minutes behind the escapees, the overall favourites had their own fight on Ermita Santa Lucia, the most brutal climb so far at this year's edition of the Spanish Grand Tour. Due to a fierce tempo, the pack was whittled down, only 25 men arriving at the foot of the climb, which took the sting out of the riders' legs, as they gritted their teeth and tried to cope with the pain.
Attacks soon followed, as expected, and despite being gapped, David De LaCruz pushed hard in order to limit the damage, conceding only a few seconds on the first group at the finish. Five stages into the race, David is fifth in the general classification, just 23 seconds behind the red jersey wearer; another Quick-Step Floors rider who had reasons to be content at the end of the stage was Matteo Trentin, Tuesday's winner, who retained the green jersey.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele