This is about as straightforward a stage as you can ever watch. No drama, no surprises, no mishaps.
The 172.5 kilometer stage from Salamanca to Fermoselle was a guaranteed bunch sprint. The run in was long and straight as an arrow without single corner to derail up a train. It’s was a pure speed, power team script.
Elia Viviani was the outright favorite, his team the strongest in setting up the sprint and their plans went accordingly. With roughly 3.5 kilometers to go, QuickStep went to the front and never looked back. Road captain Michael Mørkøv had everybody on point and then lead-out man Fabio Sabatini dropped Viviani off in perfect position.
Then, we all witnessed the foregone concussion.
“It was the most perfect lead-out we’ve done this year. The guys did really proper, good job,” Viviani said afterwards. It was almost too easy, like Mark Cavendish in his prime or Quickstep era Marcel Kittle. Line them up, knock them down. That’s 17 wins this season for Viviani and an astonishing 60 in total for Patrick Lefevere’s Wolfpack.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) filled out the top three and they wouldn’t disagree that Viviani crushed them. “It was a really fast sprint and these sprints aren’t really for me. There was a big tailwind in the sprint and it was really fast with some technical parts. I think Elia is much faster in sprints like this,” said Sagan.
Like Quickstep’s Fernando Gaviria at the Tour de France, Viviani looks to be the fastest, most dominant sprint in the Vuelta. He had four stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and now has two in the Spanish grand tour with strong shot at another one of two by the time the race finishes in Madrid.
That’s crushing it.