Smith sprints to fifth after Stannard & Schultz make La Vuelta stage 15 breakawayThu 5 Nov 2020
Kiwi Dion Smith sprinted to an impressive fifth place on the longest day of this year’s La Vuelta a España as stage 15 came down to a reduced bunch sprint in Puebla de Sanabria.
Australian duo Rob Stannard and Nick Schultz made into the break of the day, but after the pair were reeled back in, Mitchelton-SCOTT switched focus, with Callum Scotson leading out Smith for his best ever Grand Tour result.
It was another attacking start to the stage with Mitchelton-SCOTT amongst the fight for the breakaway in a rapid opening hour of racing. Former Australian champion Alex Edmondson twice made it up the road only to be brought back by teams in the peloton who weren’t happy to have missed out on the moves.
The bunch reached the first categorised climb of the day with still no breakaway formed and despite several attacks on the slopes, it remained all together over the top. However, it wasn’t long before another group went clear, with Stannard and Schultz infiltrating a 10-rider break ahead of the next climb.
This time the move stuck, with three riders eventually bridging across to make it a 13-man group at the head of the race. The escapees stretched their advantage out to a maximum of six minutes before the peloton increased the pace and began chasing with 100km remaining, quickly bringing the deficit down to below three minutes.
The 13 attackers managed to push the gap back out to over three minutes, but a strong headwind was making it difficult as the peloton closed to within one minute with 40km left to race. With the bunch edging closer, the break began to attack each other and Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck - Quick Step) went solo with 30km remaining.
The increase in pace spelled the end for Stannard as the youngster dropped away, while teammate Schultz battled on in the chasing group as the rain started to fall. The peloton eventually swept the chasers up, leaving just Cattaneo out front with 10km to go as the sprint teams set about hunting down the lone leader.
It was all back together as the pack raced under 3km to go banner as Scotson charged to the front with Smith on his wheel. The New Zealander was dropped off in position inside the final kilometre, but as the sprint opened up the 27-year-old was boxed out against the barriers, with a late charge to the line good enough for fifth.
“It almost felt like slow motion, everything felt so numb. I just followed Callum from 6km to go and we ended up being on the front with 1km to go, he did an awesome job.
"I kind of got boxed on the barrier with 175 metres to go, so I stopped pedalling for a couple of seconds. Then I just tried to kick again, but it was a little bit too late. But I did what I could. I can’t feel my face right now, it [the cold] made a bit of a difference, but I had my jacket on so it’s all good.
"We had two guys in the break, they had the potential to win, they got brought back, but I think we can be reasonably happy."
Julian Dean (Sports Director):
"Edmo was in the first early move of the day, which was good, he kept that covered and then we got to a hillier section and Rob and Nick did a really good job of getting in the break that was stacked with really good riders.
"It was a really strong break and great for them to be in there and good experience for them to be up the road. That all came back together, and we had some pretty tough conditions there in the final.
"It was great to see Callum and Dion cover up all the hard work the rest of the team had done earlier in the day, it was a good example of great teamwork."
La Vuelta a España - Stage 15 Results:
1. Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Team Emirates) 6:22:36
2. Pascal Ackermann (BORA - hansgrohe) ST
3. Jannik Steimle (Deceuninck - Quick Step) ST
5. Dion Smith (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 15:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 60:19:41
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:39
3. Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) +0:47
13. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +11:29
Photo Courtesy of Bettini Photo.