Majka was the strongest in El Barraco
Poland's Rafal Majka won one of the most talked-about mountain stages of La Vuelta 2021 and he did it in tremendous style: solo for much of the route after riding away with Fabio Aru.
Large escape and breakaway of the Majka-Aru duo
One of the most talked-about stages of La Vuelta 2021 arrived with a clear script: the general classification was fairly even and the same riders were very exhausted. Nobody attacked yesterday in Villuercas and that shows the accumulated fatigue in the legs.
Today, a mountain stage between Navalmoral de la Mata and El Barraco, with three mountain passes, two of them first category, among which the Puerto de Mijares, 40 kilometres from the finish line and with an average gradient of 5.4% over its more than 20 kilometres, stands out. A pass that kills slowly.
The name of the day was Majka. A great climber and a tremendous rider, the Polish rider already knows what it's like to win in the Vuelta, although with Bora Hansgrohe. Now, in UAE, he gives a remarkable victory to his team and writes his name again in this race.
Before that, everything went as expected. Many breakaway attempts, a split in the peloton and nerves in the face of what was coming and the lack of oxygen in the legs. Bardet, after winning yesterday, still got into the first breakaway, a breakaway that lasted almost 70 kilometres in a pretty nice tug-of-war. But it ended up being caught by the peloton.
Shortly after, at kilometre 72, a trio formed by Majka himself, Aru and Van Gils attacked. The latter soon dropped off the pace and was caught, but Aru and Majka went solo and gradually gained the advantage. They were two riders rarely seen in this Vuelta and they wanted their chance and their minute of glory.
The hardness caused the withdrawal of Elissonde. The man who, for a few moments, even led La Vuelta 2021, dropped back, while Aru and Majka took two minutes off the chasers and more than three and a half minutes off the peloton.
Great victory for Rafal Majka
When the chasing group began to attack to catch the breakaway duo, the lead group also broke away. Majka increased the pace, without attacking, and gradually dropped Aru. He got more than half a minute in 5 kilometres and crowned Pedro Bernardo alone. Majka looked very strong, and he did not disappoint.
Behind, an average of more than 42 kilometres per hour despite all the passes. Impressive. It's normal that no one attacks, if they keep up that pace they'll be able to keep up with the rest of the race.
Majka climbed Mijares like a motorbike. Great pace. Kruijswijk tried to attack and catch him, but it seemed impossible, Majka had more legs than anyone. Since the 2017 edition, the Polish had not won. On that occasion he did it in La Pandera.
With 10 kilometres to go, the peloton was tightening up but Majka's lead was already evident. He was going to win and he knew it, that's why he was smiling at the camera. He was a happy man. He rode the last kilometre receiving the affection of the Spanish fans and satisfied with the effort. Trying to do it alone from so far away deserves recognition, no doubt. Behind, nothing new. Everyone went back in hand in hand, so no change of leader and no change in the gap. Everyone, obviously, waiting for the two big stages in Asturias. Tomorrow, a well-deserved rest day.
- Majka, R. (UAE) | 4:51:36
- Kruijswijk, S. (Jumbo Visma) | +1:27
- Hamilton, C. (DSM) | +2:19
- Eiking, O.C. (Intermarché) | 59:57:50
- Martin, G. (Cofidis) | +54
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | +1:36