Another crazy day in the Helta Skelta Vuelta. Take a siesta for ten minutes and something else unexpected happens.
A career domestique like American Ben King (Dimension Data) wins not one, but two stages from breakaways. The combative and underachieving Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) saves his season and possibly his career prospects with a sprint victory.
French Squad AG2R puts on a better show in Spain than in Le Tour, winning two stages. Big budget grand tour dominator Team Sky pedals along like everyone else, just hoping for a lucky break here or there. It’s like Sky as Pro Conti.
And so it was on Thursday in Spain as the top GC rivals all said, hey, you go ahead Jesus Herrada, take the jersey. We’re tired and also Movistar and Mitchelton-Scott are playing a great game of chicken.
Herrada promptly jumps in large breakaway and proceeds to take a ten, then eleven, then almost a twelve minute lead while Simon Yates and Nairo Quintana meandered along, confident that the Spaniard would die after a few days in the high mountains.
That’s the work of mathematical probabilities and track record but that doesn’t change the fact that Herrada is a solid climber, inspired by riding his home tour and he’s up 3:22. Shades of Óscar Pereiro in the 2006 Tour and Thomas Voeckler in the 2004 Tour.
Already the cautionary quotes are out, with riders and director sportifs warning that Herrada is better than you think and could hold the jersey for at least a few days in the mountains. According to the stats, he’s never finished higher than 30th in a grand tour but If the jersey gives you wings, then this Vuelta is going to get even more loco before Madrid.
Get your pitcher of Sangria ready for the this weekend’s fireworks on the mountain. We’ve got another riveting storyline in what’s already been a cracker of a Vuelta.
“I will try and defend it for as long as possible,” Herrada said. “I wanted to get more freedom than when I was at Movistar, to see where how far I could get.”