Roche now fifth overall in Vuelta but Bennett retains points jersey

Team Sunweb rider digs deep to stay in touch with breakaway group but cracks with 4km remaining

Nicolas Roche put in a dogged ride in defence of the race leader’s jersey on Wednesday’s fifth stage of the Vuelta a España, but nevertheless slipped back to fifth overall in the general classification. The Team Sunweb rider dug deep on the first summit finish of the race, crossing the line 14th at the finish at the Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre. He was two minutes 17 seconds behind winner Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH), one of three breakaway riders who stayed clear to the line.

Roche cracked with approximately 4km remaining, being distanced after world champion Alejandro Valverde surged ahead. Valverde dragged a group clear and while Roche held on to the chasers for some time, he slipped further back with just over 3km to go and fought onwards alone to the finish. He was better than several of the other overall contenders, with riders such as Davide Formolo (Bora-hansgrohe) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) finishing behind him.

“I did go deep,” said Roche afterwards. “I was really trying to limit my loss and pace myself. But I was pacing myself really in the hurt bus. I just did my own climb . . . I think I did a good climb, the others are just at a better level. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez was best of the general classification riders in fourth place, 47 seconds behind Madrazo. He retook over the overall lead he lost to Roche at the end of stage two and is now 14 seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma), who was sixth on the stage.


Roche is 57 seconds back in fifth overall.

“I am in my good Vuelta shape,” he said, talking about his strong condition. “Every year I come here always with very high ambitions. There were years when I was leaner and I kind of tended to blow in the third week, like in 2017 for example. I hope this Vuelta that I will go into it and get better day by day.

“It is a different approach, I am a little bit fresher than other years coming into the Vuelta. I took a little bit more time to rest and it is the first time that I didn’t go to altitude between the Tour and the Vuelta. So hopefully the freshness will play in the third week.”

Roche went into the race expecting to ride for the designated leader Wilco Kelderman, but has been stronger than him thus far. Kelderman missed the break on stage two which secured Roche the race lead, and was 15 seconds behind him at the finish on Wednesday. Roche said he now believes team leadership will be determined by how the rest of the race goes.

“Wilco is not too far behind. We still have another 2½ weeks to fight now for a good GC [general classification] between us,” he said.

Sam Bennett paced himself to the line on the final climb in order to save strength for the sprint stages. He remains the leader in the points classification, nine clear of his closest rival. But he said that with the uphill specialists in their favourite terrain, he believes he will likely lose the jersey and will need to regain it on stages that suit him.

“Hopefully I can stay in it for another few days,” he said. “With this Grand Tour it is always hard because the climbers often get it. When they are racing there is nothing I can really do. All I can do is to try to do my best on the sprint stages, and hopefully I can come back in it [the green jersey] again.”

Bennett added that the next stage he could potentially try to win is Sunday’s eighth leg, although he noted that there is a difficult climb towards the end. The second category Puerto de Monserrat peaks 28km from the finish line in Igualada.

Vuelta a España, Spain (WorldTour):

Stage 5, L'Eliana to Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 170.7km in 4 hours 58 mins 31 secs; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) at 10 secs; 3, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) at 22 secs; 4, M Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) at 47 secs; 5, A Valverde (Movistar Team) at 59 secs; 6, P Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) same time.

Irish: 14, N Roche (Team Sunweb) at 2 mins 17 secs; 167, S Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) at 21 mins 15 secs.
Sprint 1 – Manzanera km. 135: 1, Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH) 4 pts; 2, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) 2; 3, A Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 1
Sprint 2 – Alto De Javalambre. Observatorio Astrofísico De Javalambre km. 170.7: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 25 pts; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) 20; 3, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) 16.

King of the Mountains:
Puerto De Alcublas km. 31.7: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 5 pts; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) 3; 3, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) 1.
Alto Fuente De Rubielos km. 98.6: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 3 pts; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) 2; 3, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) 1.
Alto De Javalambre. Observatorio AstrofãSico De Javalambre km. 170.7: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 10 pts; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) 6; 3, J Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits) 4.

Young riders: 1, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) at 4 hours 59 mins 18 secs; 2, T Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) at 42 secs; 3, S Kuss (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 54 secs.

Combativity: 1, Jose Herrada (Cofidis Solutions Credits)

Teams: 1, Burgos-BH 15 hours 20 secs; 2, Movistar Team, at 19 secs; 3, Team Jumbo-Visma, at 29 secs.

General classification after stage 5: 1, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) 18 hours 55 mins 21 secs; 2, P Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 14 secs; 3, N Quintana (Movistar Team) at 23 secs; 4, A Valverde (Movistar Team) at 28 secs; 5, N Roche (Team Sunweb) at 57 secs; 6, R Uran (EF Education First) at 59 secs.

Other Irish: 154, S Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) at 37 mins 36 secs.

Points Classification: 1, Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) 45 pts; 2, F Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 34; 3, N Quintana (Movistar Team) 33.

Other Irish: 8, N Roche (Team Sunweb) 22.

Mountains Classification: 1, Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Burgos-BH) 33 pts; 2, J Bol (Burgos-BH) 11; 3, A Valverde (Movistar Team) 6.

Young Riders Classification: 1, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) 18 hours 55 mins 21 secs; 2, T Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) at 1 min 49 secs; 3, S Andres Higuita Garcia (EF Education First) at 2 mins 40 secs.

Teams Classification: 1, Movistar Team, 56 hours 19 mins 51 secs; 2, Team Jumbo-Visma, at 39 secs; 3, EF Education First, at 3 mins 47 secs.

Other: 4, Team Sunweb, at 4 mins 24 secs; 17, Bora hansgrohe, at 22 mins 12 secs.