Smith bags strong third place after Stannard makes the break on La Vuelta stage 16

Fri 6 Nov 2020

Coppa Sabatini winner Dion Smith sprinted to his second top-five finish in-a-row at La Vuelta a España, taking third in a reduced bunch kick for the line on stage 16.

Australian Rob Stannard made it into the day’s breakaway, but after being reeled in with 16km to go, Mitchelton-SCOTT went all in for Smith as he bettered his best ever Grand Tour result from yesterday. The Kiwi originally crossed the line in fourth place but was promoted one spot following the relegation of Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates).

Another Day, Another Break
With the threat of crosswinds looming in the opening kilometres of the stage, it was a nervy start to the day. Eventually two riders from Burgos-BH attacked clear, opening up a two-minute gap before Stannard and a chasing group of four reacted and bridged across to the leading duo.

The gap back to the peloton quickly stretched out to over five minutes, but the sprint teams then moved to the head of the pack and started to trim the time back. As Stannard and the breakaway passed over the first of the categorised climbs their advantage stood at 3’30”, but action amongst the GC teams on the descent saw the gap fall rapidly.

As the bunch closed to within 45 seconds on the slopes of the following climb, Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck - Quick Step) attacked out of the breakaway, with Stannard the only rider able to go with the Frenchman. The duo made it over the top of the ascent narrowly ahead of the peloton, and the pair continued to hold off the pack until Stannard was eventually reeled back in with 16km to go.

New Plan
Cavagna pressed on solo before and was finally hauled back in with two kilometres to go, with the stage now set for a reduced bunch sprint. Mitchelton-SCOTT were amongst the teams leading the chase as they looked to setup Smith for the finale into Ciudad Rodrigo.

The New Zealander was primed and ready to launch his kick after being dropped off in position under the flamme rouge, with the 27-year-old stealing fourth place in the lunge for the line to better his fifth place on yesterday’s stage. With Costa relegated to last place, Smith moved up to finish the day in third.

Dion Smith:
"On the cat one climb I was actually feeling good, I was expecting more attacks from the bigger teams, but it was actually pretty controlled, so I managed to get over that. But the hardest part was after the cat one, there were a few rollers and it was super-fast, Movistar were riding, so it was a bit taxing on the legs.

"But I was feeling good, it was such a good opportunity, I’m pretty gutted to be honest, and I mean the likes of Roglic still had a kick, as it doesn’t sap as much energy out of them as it does me over those climbs.

"I tried following Sütterlin from Sunweb because I knew he was a big strong guy and he’d probably do a pretty good sprint and I could come off him, but it turns out Magnus was the strongest."

Rob Stannard:
"Remi is a spectacular rider, he’s super strong and obviously he showed that today, I felt great as well but he attacked and I just couldn’t follow. My legs had a little bit of fatigue from yesterday, being in the break all day yesterday as well, so potentially that was a factor.

"We also had options for our team in the bunch, we still had five guys there and Dion who can sprint. It was disappointing not to make it all the way to the finish, obviously, but it wasn’t the end of the race for us, so when I got back to the bunch I helped out a little bit to bring back Remi.

"If anything, this being my first Grand Tour, it’s going to strengthen me, even if there’s no results it’s a way to learn and grow and develop."

La Vuelta a España - Stage 16 Results:
1. Magnus Cort (EF Pro Cycling) 4:04:35
2. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) ST
3. Dion Smith (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 16:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 64:20:31
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:45
3. Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) +0:53
13. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +11:35

Photos Courtesy of Bettini Photo.