Jakobsen suffers and wins in Santa Cruz de Bezana
A flat stage, the last one designed for sprinters in this Vuelta 2021. In the prelude to the Cantabrian mountain climbs, stage 16 was as flat as the profile of the day. The most exciting thing: Jakobsen's sprint. The Deceuninck rider struggled to stay in the lead, but he celebrates his third victory on his birthday. A year and a half ago he was in a coma, it is worth remembering.
Dangerous crash and a good breakaway
This was the sixteenth stage between Laredo and Santa Cruz de Bezana, a stage with 180 kilometres to go and a predominantly flat profile in which the sprint finish was not even paid at the bookmakers. It was a yes or yes and it did not disappoint. An early breakaway didn't even get enough of a lead to dream of. The peloton pulled when it wanted to and even almost dropped Jakobsen in the chase.
Eiking started in red and, without incident, would have no problem keeping it. He will be challenged in the two Cantabrian mountain stages to come, but today it was a precautionary ride. His team protected him well.
Right at the start of the morning, there were several breakaway attempts. The first, with six riders, was a mirage. The second, of four riders just at the moment when there was a crash in the peloton. These four were Dewulf (AG2R), Bizkarra, (Euskaltel) Claeys (Team Qhubeka) and Simmons (Trek) who took advantage of the situation.
It was precisely in this crash that some important riders went down. The best placed in the general classification, Enric Mas. It doesn't suit the Spanish rider to suffer such a crash before the battle of the Picos de Europa, but let's hope it doesn't affect him too much, he recovered well with a few scratches. With him went Martin and Ciccone, all without serious consequences. But Ciccone, 50 kilometres further on, said it was enough and retired.
The quartet added Jetse Bol and formed a quintet that had a lead of more than two minutes over the peloton. Behind, DSM and Groupama controlled the peloton and regulated the gap: it went up as well as down by a few tens of seconds, but control was absolute. The average in the first hour was 43.6 kilometres per hour, which was high considering that the terrain was a false flat uphill.
The gap was down to almost a minute after 70 kilometres of the stage, but the breakaway was still in the lead and would set off on today's only climb, the third stage pass of Alto de Hijas. That was the race situation with 70 kilometres to go.
Control and sprint in Santa Cruz de Bezana
At that impasse, around 50 kilometres from the finish, UAE Team Emirates literally lost its head. They started to pull in such a way that it looked like madness. The riders started to get nervous, favourites included. In fact, there was a moment when Roglic was seen riding solo, trying to stay with the front of the peloton.
The one who suffered most in the first instance was Fabio Jakobsen. He was completely dropped but was fortunate that UAE, in the same surprising way that decided to pull, decided to stop, and was able to rejoin the group, because he saw how his chances of stage victory were slipping away. This pull left the breakaway only 45 seconds away.
We were facing the last stage with a sprint finish, so the profiles of this type knew it was now or never. Démare, Dainese or Planckaert would try to stand up to Jakobsen.
With 25 kilometres to go, the breakaway's lead was only 30 seconds. It was a classic sprint finish, but between the control of the peloton and Dewulf's efforts, the catch was delayed. 8 kilometres in, he still had 15 seconds, but he was just waiting to be caught. Headwind, that's all there was to it. It was impossible.
The teams wanted to measure Jakobsen's strength. The other day he weakened a kilometre from the finish line, so they tried to let him run out of oxygen in his legs in the last kilometres and see if they could drop him and play the sprint with the rest of the field. But Jakobsen held on, well supported by the entire Deceuninck team. With 4 kilometres to go, the whole peloton was grouped together and Groupama were pushing hard at almost 70 kilometres per hour. And they actually gave Jakobsen the sprint. The Deceuninck rider won comfortably and made it a hat-trick in this edition of La Vuelta 2021. No changes in the general classification.
- Jakogsen, F. (Deceuninck) | 4:08:57
- Meeus, J. (Bora Hansgrohe) | 4:08:57
- Trentin, M. (UAE) | 4:08:57
- Eiking, O.C. (Intermarché) | 64:06:47
- Martin, G. (Cofidis) | +54
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | +1:36