Race situation: Six high-powered guys in the break and only one of them will take out this grand tour stage.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) already have a victory in this Vuelta a Espana.
Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) has won classics and tour stages and is just plain bad-ass. Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Thymen Arensman (Sunweb) are feeling strong and hungry.
They’re all together going up the third category Aldo de Abelaira with 20 kilometers to go but on the descent the gaps stretch open and suddenly Soler and Stybar have disappeared up the road.
Van Baarle attempts to bridge but it’s Wellens that senses the urgency and bombs the downhill, eventually catching Soler and Stybar at the ten kilometer mark.
First tactical challenge solved for Wellens.
The gap back to Woods, Van Baarle and Arensman hovers between 10 and 15 seconds as they head toward the finish in Ourense.
They keep whittling down the gap until it’s a mere 5 seconds with two kilometers to go, then make the catch shortly after.
It’s one big happy family again, six riders all dreaming big as they go under the red kite.
Soler goes too early, Woods jumps on the Spaniard’s wheel but it’s Wellens who picks the ideal launch point with 200 meters to go. It’s game over except that Woods refuses to die.
It’s a feverish side-by-side battle but Wellens takes the left inside line first and hits the finish at the end of the curve.
“I knew I had to get into the last corner first, because it was a very special sprint for the finish, right on the corner itself,” said Wellens. “I was pleased that the corner was where it was, because I think Woods would have got past me otherwise.”
But Woods didn’t get past. The champagne goes to Wellens.