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Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) took a fantastic victory on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España, his fourth career victory and second Grand Tour stage win of 2021. The Giro d’Italia runner-up was part of an 11-man breakaway for just 30 km before he took matters into his own hands, going solo 71 km from the summit finish.
“It’s a lot. I went because I knew Ineos was doing a really hard tempo and I said ‘OK before they catch me I want to do a breakaway, maybe alone’,” Caruso said. “I didn’t expect the gap would get bigger kilometre by kilometre. It’s still unbelievable what I did. It was an amazing feeling and a repeat of this feeling after the Giro is incredible for me.”
By the 13.1 km finishing climb, the first hors-category ascent of the Vuelta, Caruso had an advantage of 3:18 to maintain to the chasers, and 5:15 to the peloton. The fierce fight that was ignited among the GC favourites slashed his lead, but Caruso held on to cross the line 1:05 ahead of runner-up Roglič.
“The last climb was so long,” Caruso lamented. “I always try to keep my focus on my own tempo. Only in the last few kilometres I realised I can win today.”
With Caruso celebrating stage victory, teammates Jack Haig and Gino Mäder crossed the line in fourth and seventh respectively, the Australian moving up to fourth overall. However, three minutes later, Mark Padun led home a struggling Mikel Landa, whose time loss saw him drop to 16th overall.
“I’m sorry for Mikel [Landa], but today was a really hard stage for everyone,” Caruso said. “I heard something on the radio, but I was just focused on my tempo.”