Coming off the back of Saturday’s explosive stage, the peloton were once again in for a hard day of racing where the late-attacking Lafay just held off a group of around 25 riders in the sprint for the line, as Team dsm-firmenich took eighth place with Romain Bardet.
Leaving the town of Vitoria-Gasteiz this afternoon, the longest stage of this year’s race lay ahead of the peloton and a finale that borrowed from the Clasica San Sebastian, with the challenging Jaizkibel climb cresting at roughly 15 kilometres to go. Working well throughout the stage, the team stayed together and kept GC finisher Bardet safe as they navigated some tricky parcours, especially with intermittent rain showers making the roads slippier.
Coming into the Jaizkibel only one breakaway rider, Powless, remained out front as the pace in the peloton ramped up. Unfortunately, some bad luck struck the team with punctures for Alex Edmondson, John Degenkolb and Kevin Vermarke all at the same moment, the latter of whom then had a second incident. Just after that moment, a crash on the left side of the road saw Matt Dinham with nowhere to go and he hit the deck. Quickly back onto his bike, he tried to return to the peloton and made contact just before the foot of the Jaizkibel. In the meantime, Nils Eekhoff and Chris Hamilton did a great job to bring Bardet into position where a fierce pace saw the peloton split into pieces almost immediately. Climbing well, Bardet made it over the top of the climb towards the front of the GC group, which ultimately came back together on the descent.
An attentive Bardet was always towards the front as the group stretched out as they went further down the descent, with Bilbao attacking. Once he was caught, several other riders attacked while some teams looked to pace and set up a drastically reduced bunch sprint. Heading under the flamme rouge it seemed as if it was going to be a sprint but Lafay timed his attack well, just holding off the bunch at the line, with Bardet getting up to take eighth place.