Fabio Jakobsen wins his second stage in La Manga
A flat, slightly boring and monotonous stage, which was resolved in a sprint. An early breakaway was just looking for some notoriety and a miracle. But the hammer fell on them and La Manga was decided in the last metres. Jakobsen was unchallenged and took stage 8 with ease.
A breakaway without expectations
A 174-kilometre stage as flat as the palm of your hand, starting in Santa Pola and finishing in the Mar Menor, a Mar Menor that these days is in the news for other, much sadder reasons. Today La Vuelta 2021 gave it a touch of colour and an opportunity for vindication. Yes, La Vuelta advertises it as a place of tourism and biodiversity, but the ecological reality is quite chaotic.
Valverde couldn't touch his home soil and this Vuelta arrived with Roglic leading and an amazing permissiveness with the breakaways in the previous days. Today was not going to be very different: breakaways and more breakaways and a peloton in tune not to leave even a couple of minutes gap and settle the stage victory in a sprint. Yes, the breakaway started at the first kilometre.
Who? Spanish teams, of course. It's about time that this Vuelta was fair to some of them and gave them at least one stage. This time it was Okamika of Burgos, Bagües of Caja Rural and Iturria of Euskaltel. And yes, they went up to almost four minutes, but it was a mirage.
Deceuninck was pulling the peloton for an obvious reason, the quest for the sprint. And the lead went to two minutes. And between a minute and a half and two minutes, the lead would be maintained for 50 kilometres. Philipsen, Jakobsen and Démare were licking their lips, and it all looked like it was going to the sprint.
Capture and sprint
The peloton had everything under control, so they just let the kilometres go by and the pace did its job. At that pace, Roglic was very comfortable and the lead was dropping fast. With 38 kilometres to go, the breakaway's advantage was minimal, 20 seconds, and even the peloton had visual contact with the breakaway on the long straights leading to La Manga del Mar Menor.
On those straights, Astana began to push the peloton at a crazy pace. Omar Fraile put on a big chainring and, at more than 60 per hour on the flat, stretched the peloton and stoked the spirits. The riders tried not to get lost and some of them cursed Astana and dropped off. What need was there, they thought. The truth is that those 20 seconds vanished in just one kilometre. Hunted, the escapees congratulated themselves for the attempt, and Astana lifted its foot.
It was between a breakaway attempt and a solution to the breakaway. It was the last sprint before tomorrow's stage with the finish in Velefique, so while waiting for the mountain, everyone wanted to have their chances and the teams controlled and positioned themselves with caution and protected their favourites for the general classification, who today could only lose, not win anything.
From here on, it was all rather dull, to be honest. There was little excitement, the peloton was riding at high speed, and the intention was to stretch out and use their strength to optimise the options of each respective sprinter. There was no one team pulling the rest, they were alternating and even the pull was simultaneous. There was a headwind, which benefited the speed but was detrimental to many riders who did not benefit at all from being at the back of the peloton.
That's how we reached the last kilometre. Peloton launched and tension of sprint. The specialists were well placed. But among them all, the beast of Jakobsen came out to clear all the doubts. He won an unchallenged sprint, one bike ahead, and won his second stage in this edition of La Vuelta, the fourth in total in all his participations. Tomorrow, the mountains.
- Jakobsen, F. (Deceuninck Quick Step) | 3:56:05
- Dainese, A. (DSM) | 3:56:05
- Philipsen, J. (Alpecin Fenix) |3:56:05
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | 29:14:40
- Grossschartner, F. (Bora Hansgrohe) | +8
- Mas, E. (Movistar) | +25