Alexis Gourgeard of AG2R took the biggest win of his career when he solo’d away to win the 19th stage of La Vuelta.
After a long day in the breakaway Gougeard took his chance when the group began to break down and used his time trialling skills to stay away from the chasers until the finish.
The breakaway was large, with 15 riders managing to get a gap of over 15 minutes. The break included Christian Knees (Sky), Amael Moinard (BMC), David Arroyo, Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Fabio Duarte, Leonardo Duque, Juan Pablo Valencia (Team Colombia), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quick Step), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling), Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Andrei Amador, Fran Ventoso (Movistar), Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka), Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Tiago Machado, Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Markel Irizar (Trek) as well as Gougeard.
The break stayed away for most of the day with Giant-Alpecin riding on the front of the peloton but not putting too much effort into the chase to bring them back. They stayed together over the first climb of the category 3 Alto de Valdavia but on the descent they started to fracture and by the foot of the second category Alto de la Peramera their cohesion had all but vanished.
With 44km to go Machado attacked the break and managed to get an early advantage as other riders like Irizar attempted to make it up to him but failed. As the group fell apart on the climb Machado’s lead was gradually reduced from 30″ to being caught by Gougeard and Duque, the trio managing to push the gap back up to around 50″.
Duque was unable to keep the pace and soon dropped off with Montfort and Berhane catching him and setting their sights on Machado and Gougeard. Machado was clearly struggling and with 22km to go Gougeard took off alone in his bid for victory.
As the fireworks continued up the mountain the peloton were only just starting the climb and Movistar attacked immediately with Valverde trying to accelerate away. Tinkoff-Saxo marked him closely and brought him back to the group but that didn’t stop the repeated attacks from the Spaniard as he tried to break the elastic.
As Gougeard continued to climb the four chasers had him in their sights, but weren’t able to catch him as he went through the 2km to go banner and began the steep cobbled climb up to the city of Avila.
Oliveira had managed to catch the chasers and went past them on the climb to take second place as Gougeard easily finished with a significant gap on the chasers.
With 9km to go Valverde attacked again and this time managed to get a gap of around 10″ on the peloton. Despite managing to stay away until 1km to go Valverde was eventually caught by the group and finished in the bunch.
As Valverde was caught Dumoulin moved to the front of the race an put in an attack on the cobbles, managing to get a gap on the peloton with only Moreno able to keep up with him. Dumoulin finished the stage 3″ ahead of Aru to extend his lead in the race.