JACK Haig back in contention after Michael Storer’s big stage win, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
STAGE 9 of the Vuelta a Espana was raced through extremely tough terrain made famous by the spaghetti western movies and the aggressive racing produced all the action that would keep viewers glued to the screen.
For Bahrain Victorious it was a mixed bag of emotions. Sicilian veteran Damiano Caruso showed a glimpse of the form that took him to second overall at the Giro in May, producing a virtuoso performance to take the win. His Bahrain teammate Aussie Jack Haig roared back into contention with a sterling fourth place moving in to fourth overall. But Bahrain’s designated leader Mikel Landa cracked and lost five minutes.Embed from Getty Images
The stage started in Puerto Lumbreras, the hometown of Spanish legend Alejandro Valverde who unfortunately broke his collarbone when he spectacularly crashed on stage 7. A breakaway took a while to establish and finally 11 riders got clear but were never given too much lead. Caruso decided he could do this on his own and rode clear on the 29 km Alto Collado Venta Luisa, a mouthful of a title and a monster of a climb. With still 70 km to go it was a brave attack, but he was never to be seen again as he forged clear. The 33 year old Italian was superb and finished a minute in front of a charging Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) followed closely by Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar) third, the only contender able to challenge the Slovenian. Haig led the chasers across the line 39 seconds down, with Miguel Angel López (Movistar) and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) on his wheel. But Ineos leader Egan Bernal struggled, cracking near the summit and crossing the line alongside Italian Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 1:05 behind Roglič.
Of course we are still celebrating the brilliant stage 7 win of Michael Storer (Team DSM) on Friday. The young West Australian triumphed alone from a breakaway of serious quality and produced a super impressive ride to take his first Grand Tour victory. The 24-year-old was aggressive and although surrounded by riders with big reputations he took them all on and rode clear on the steep final climb of the Balcón de Alicante.
In July, Storer took the overall victory at the mountainous Tour de l’Ain showing a glimpse of what he is capable of. But this win confirmed his arrival as a potential Grand Tour challenger of the future.
Today’s rest day will be appreciated by most and give the peloton a chance to recharge the batteries. Stage 10 is one that Team BikeExchange would have on the radar. The second category climb, only 16 kms from the finish, will eliminate all the other sprinters but Michael Matthews will need to pull out one of his best performances to stay with the overall contenders. If he can manage that the Aussie could finally take his first win of the year.