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Stage 6 of the 2021 Vuelta a España featured a pan-flat 70-kilometer run across twisting and windy roads into a painful 2km steep climb to the finish.
While an all-day break established itself after about an hour of racing, Jumbo-Visma, Movistar Team, and Team BikeExchange did the majority of the work to bring the five back. Timing the catch nearly perfectly, four of the five on the front were brought back with 1.5km to go, leaving on Magnus Cort Nielsen dangling just out of arm’s reach. Nielsen, the sole survivor of the quintet, held a fast-chasing Primož Roglič with a handful of meters to spare.
Here’s what the stars said after six stages of this year’s Vuelta.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): 2nd, at :00
Primož Roglič is a top tactician when it comes to bike racing, and strong enough to execute his plans. He’s capable of targeting stage podium placings to take precious time bonuses and has the ability to race against the clock as well as climb.
Roglič won the opening stage time trial and wore red for two days. He relinquished the race-lead responsibility only to retake it with an explosive climb that nearly netted him the stage win. Can he keep the red jersey for more than two weeks? Yes. Will he want to do so? This remains to be seen.
One thing is certain: Count on the Slovenian to fight for wins and bonus seconds on every significant stage.
“At the end [of the stage today] I had good legs so I did a little sprint,” Roglič said. “We’ll see who will be the strongest in Santiago,” referencing the final time trial. “It’s a long way until then.”
Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 3rd, at :02
Deceuninck-Quick-Step is a master at managing itself on flat roads in windy conditions, yet the team seemed to struggle on the stage.
Andrea Bagioli was the best-positioned rider at the base of the final 2km climb, while stage 4 winner Fabio Jakobsen had already faded from the lead group before this point.
Bagioli surprised the Movistar and Ineos squads, nearly sticking to Roglič’s wheel in the closing 200m, and coming across the line in third on the stage.
“I was confident in my chances at the start of the day and the team worked really hard for me. The [final] climb was a hard one, offering no moment of respite, but I felt good and gave my best, despite arriving there after some full gas 70 kilometers,” Bagioli said. “I am satisfied with this podium, but winning would have been better. It’s our fifth top 3 finish since the start of La Vuelta and we hope to bring more good results in the next days.”
Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchage): 6th, at :06
If a stage at the Vuelta a España could be designed to suit the strengths of Michael “Bling” Matthews, this one was it.
“Bling” managed to stay ahead of a high-speed crash that brought down two of his pace-setting teammates earlier on the stage.
While Matthews look very aggressive into the final half-kilometer of racing — and closed down a chuck of distance from 700m to 400m to go — he could not stick with Roglič, when the Slovenian kicked at 150m out.
“I started quite far back on the bottom of the final two-kilometer climb, I had to make up a few fair spots which was unfortunate. But once I caught the front of the bunch, I could tell that the GC guys were more looking at each other than anything else so I thought the only chance to go for the stage win instead of second place was to hit out then,” Matthews said.
“So I tried, I could have also just stayed in the bunch and finished the stage in second place but we are here to win, so it was all or nothing today.”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team): 8th, at :08
The parcours of stage 6 was also well-suited f0r the 41-year-old Spaniard — the overall winner of the 2009 Vuelta — but the younger riders like Roglič and Bagioli had a little more punch at the end of the windy stage.
The Spanish-based Movistar Team did a massive amount of work throughout the stage to keep the GC hopes alive for Enric Mas and Miguel Ángel López, as well as to put the former World Champion into striking distance for the stage win.
“Near the finish, the team rode so well – winds were strong and it was dangerous, yet they drove the pace and the group perfectly. We’d of course [like to be] be closer to the win, but we did well today. We’re still the three of us up there; having myself there always gives us an extra chance.”