Vuelta a Espana: Nacer Bouhanni wins stage eight as Alejandro Valverde retains race lead
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 30/08/14 6:28pm
Nacer Bouhanni sprinted to victory on a wind-battered eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Alejandro Valverde survived splits in the peloton to retain his overall race lead.
Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) launched his burst for the line almost 300m out and just managed to beat a fast-approaching Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) into second place and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) into third to claim his second win of this year’s race.
Valverde (Movistar) followed in the main bunch alongside all of his rivals for overall victory to ensure he consolidates his 15-second advantage over second-placed Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the general classification, with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) remaining 18 seconds back in third and Chris Froome (Team Sky) 20 seconds adrift in fourth.
But the outcome of the day could have been very different, after crosswinds buffeted the final 30km into Albacete and blew the peloton to pieces on more than one occasion.
All of the sprinters and general classification favourites managed to position themselves in the front group when the pack initially split into four 26km out, but when the first of those groups fractured again with just over 11km to go, both Quintana and sprinter John Degenkolb were among the riders who found themselves detached.
A 15-second gap quickly opened up and Quintana looked set to lose time to his rivals, but then Giant-Shimano inadvertantly came to his rescue by superbly dragging the front two groups back together as they looked to put Degenkolb, their sprinter, back in contention for the stage win.
Froome, who was never far from the head of the race, said: "We were definitely more on the offensive today than having to react to other people. That's what we wanted.
"Everyone did a massive job out there. I'm just glad to get through that one and into the mountains tomorrow. I think it will be more about following the other favourites at the moment. We have still got a lot of racing to come and a lot of climbing to do. It's going to be a full-on race."
Team Sky trigger drama
The stage had looked on paper like a straightforward sprint day, but the exposed road into Albacete is notorious for crosswinds and after a two-man breakaway had been caught 40km from home, Team Sky hit the front of the peloton and set a fierce pace in anticipation of the gusts.
The pack quickly stretched out into a long line, and when the subsequent arrival of Trek Factory Racing and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at the front coincided with a strengthening of the wind, the inevitable splits came.
Like the general classification favourites, Bouhanni was prepared for a dramatic finale and had moved to the front of the race accordingly, but he admitted his winning sprint didn't go quite as closely to plan.
He said: “Everyone expected the crosswinds and we tried to stay in the front group. Three hundred metres before the finish I started my sprint. I needed space and didn’t want to get boxed in. I would have preferred to start with 200m to go, but I decide to start before and I am so happy.”
Stage eight result
1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, 4:29:00
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, same time
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, st
5 Greg Henderson (NZ) Lotto Belisol, st
6 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin, st
7 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka, st
8 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing, st
17 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
22 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, st
26 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
29 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
34 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, st
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, 31:21:20
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +15
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +18
4 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +20
5 Johan Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge, +41
6 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) +45
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +55
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +58
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano, +1:02
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, +1:06