The first mountain stage at the Vuelta on Monday saw Team dsm-firmenich animate the day, setting a hard tempo and attempting to launch a counter attacking group over the penultimate climb with Romain Bardet.
Rolling out from Súria it was a fast start to the stage with multiple attacks in the peloton. The team were active in trying to make the break with Chris Hamilton particularly active in several moves that were brought back. Eventually the elastic snapped and an 11 rider group went clear with all Team dsm-firmenich riders in the peloton, attention switched to saving energy for later in the day. The breakaway were allowed to gain an advantage of almost five minutes but that slowly came back before holding steady at around three minutes as the race entered Andorra and hit the climb of Coll d’Ordino. After some good positioning and pacing work by Alberto Dainese, Lorenzo Milesi and Sean Flynn; Romain Combaud then brought the guys further forward once more before Hamilton took over at the head of the race.
Setting a strong tempo for multiple kilometres on the climb, Hamilton reduced the gap down to around two minutes before some other teams took it up and Jay Vine attacked. Bardet quickly latched onto his wheel and a potentially promising group formed but no-one wanted to pull and they were quickly caught. Sensing a slight lull, Bardet launched a strong attack and managed to get a gap over the peloton with Wilco Kelderman bridging across to him. Pulling out around five seconds or so, Kelderman didn’t rotate through due to having riders behind, and despite pushing on for a bit more, the chasing peloton brought Bardet back just before the top of the climb.
A sensible but fast descent followed, before the pace in the reduced bunch eased with Max Poole joining Bardet in there. That saw the break gain more time before the pace really increased in the final five kilometres which thinned things down dramatically. Bardet held on and fought for as long as possible, just having to let go of the GC group inside the flamme rouge before riding his own tempo to the line.