Nielsen wins in a big way and Roglic is back in the red jersey
Roglic is once again the leader of La Vuelta a España 2021. In a strange stage, without many incidents, the wall of Cullera filtered the group of favourites. But none could catch Nielsen, who knew how to suffer and won by just 5 metres with Roglic biting him from behind. The Dane won a well-deserved stage in style.
A quiet first period and a good breakaway
A more than interesting stage in this dynamic that La Vuelta has taken of designing different stages, competitive but with twists and turns in the script. This stage 6 had a very different profile, with a flat section and a surprise finish, with the top of the Montaña de Cullera as the climax and the end of the stage on a wall more typical of the walls of the spring classics races.
Ahead, almost 160 kilometres to this unprecedented finish that was to decide the winner of the stage but could also serve to measure the strengths of the leading riders. This 2-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 9.4% would be the judge today.
The morning appeared calm, peaceful. The first attacks were just mere flashes, like Jetse Bol's attempt, caught in less than 5 minutes. Downhill, the peloton is a beast that eats you up without even realising it. The same thing happened to Stannard and Piccoli.
The breakaway, as always, the good one, had to be started by a Spanish rider, who in this first week are putting on a show, but have not yet had the good fortune to win a stage. It will come, for sure. Diego Rubio, from Burgos BH, and with him the Belgian Dimitri Claeys, attacked, but after a tremendous fight, they were caught.
Joan Bou of Euskaltel Euskadi jumped again, and with him went first Gibbons and then a larger group that took advantage little by little. There was a breakaway. And there was excitement, because the escape was aware that the final wall, with an advantage, could give them the stage. Until the real mountain stages arrive, we have to be satisfied with this.
They gained more than 6 minutes and it was only then that the peloton started to wake up and cut back, with BikeExchange and Trek pulling mainly. The lead dropped below 5 minutes first, and by 100 kilometres to the finish line it was almost 3 minutes. That 3 minutes was maintained until 50 minutes to the finish and the peloton was riding at an average speed of 45 kilometres per hour with a semi-costal but headwind at times.
The Alto de la Montaña de Cullera
It was hot, but the average temperature of 28 degrees was more bearable than in the previous stages. With 35 kilometres to go, the breakaway was still going strong and was holding on to just over three minutes. Bol, Gibbons, Boy Company, Nielsen and Lindeman.
Then the dangerous road began. Narrow and twisty, the winds began to appear. The favourites tried to stay in front and, who knows, gain a few seconds. Elissonde and David De la Cruz were cut off in this first attempt and were the worst affected, but between their efforts and the help of their teams, they tried to connect as quickly as possible.
It was in this situation that we reached the end of the stage. The scenario: the breakaway had managed to hold on after the whole day, but there was still the Cullera wall ahead and the advantage was about 25 seconds. Either someone was very strong or they were going to be caught almost reaching the finish line. Cruel. Cycling.
As soon as the wall appeared, Narváez made a tremendous start. Ineos wanted to win the stage and was eating into the breakaway's gap by leaps and bounds. It was a totally insufficient advantage and it was obvious. When they chased the breakaway, Carapaz attacked and Mas reacted. A change of leader was on the scent again, Primoz Roglic was rubbing his hands.
The castle of Cullera watched the suffering of the riders and the excitement was at its peak. Roglic increased the pace to try to close the gap. The only thing to be decided was the stage victory because there were not going to be big differences. Nielsen tried to take the stage in front of the confusion behind. 500 metres to go and the Education First rider was still suffering. Roglic made the final push for the stage and in search of the red, but Nielsen measured to the metre and won a more than deserved stage. This pullback made two things clear: Roglic was the leader and the strongest man, and La Vuelta was pretty evenly matched. We are looking forward to the mountains.
- Nielsen, M.C. (Education First) | 3:30:59
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | 3:30:59
- Bagioli, A. (Deceuninck Quick Step) | +2
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | 21:04:49
- Mas, E. (Movistar) | +25
- López, M.A. (Movistar) | +36
- Valverde, A. (Movistar) | +41
- Bernal, E. (Ineos Grenadiers) | +41