INTERMARCHÉ
WANTY GOBERT

Vuelta a Espana

Eiking’s fighting spirit in the mountains is rewarded with a fifth red jersey


The battle for the defense of Odd Christian Eiking’s leader’s jersey took another twist this Saturday during the fourteenth stage of the Tour of Spain (2.WT, 14/08-5/09). The riders were confronted to a finish on top of the Pico Villuercas (14.4 km at 6.3%), after the Puerto Berzocana (7.7 km at 5.8%) and the Puerto Collado de Ballesteros, (2.9 km at 13%). 

In addition to the difficulty of the parcours, the heat persisted in this Vuelta, with 34 degrees at the start in Don Benito. After ten kilometer there was a breakaway of eighteen riders, with the best placed rider in the general classification 45 minutes behind Eiking. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux gave freedom to the leaders, who understood that they were racing for the stage win.

Eiking was well surrounded on all climbs and approached the final climb in a peloton of around 30 riders with Jan Hirt, Simone Petilli, Rein Taaramäe and Louis Meintjes. His main contender in the general classification, Guillaume Martin, tried to escape halfway, but was followed by Louis Meintjes and caught a little later by the group where Jumbo Visma rode a strong pace. Eiking showed an admirable resistance and could rely on the help of his roommate Taaramäe, who wore the red jersey one week ago.

The Norwegian rider conceded 20 seconds to Primoz Roglic and 4 to Martin and crossed the line knowing  that he would stay the race leader for a fifth day in a row. Meintjes also defended his 14th place in the general classification. This Saturday, the peloton will go to the heights of Castilla y Leon to climb four ‘Puertos’ and finish after a slight downhill of the final climb, the Puerto San Juan de Nava.

The race was controlled during a major part of the day and I hoped that it would continue on the final climb. In the end, I suffered a lot. The slopes weren't very steep and there was a strong headwind, so I took a risk by hiding in the slipstream as good as possible. Guillaume Martin attacked but I knew that he had to battle against the wind. When we arrived inside the final 3 kilometer, I knew that I would stay the race leader for another day. Tomorrow? Keeping the jersey one more day is possible but it will depend on how my competitors make use of the parcours.

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