La Vuelta 2022: Marc Soler powers to Stage 5 win to end Spanish drought, Rudy Molard takes red from Primoz Roglic
Marc Soler stole the show in Bilbao to give Spain its first stage win in a Grand Tour for almost two years as Frenchman Rudy Molard took the red jersey from defending champion Primoz Roglic. Despite a spirited chase behind, Soler held on for Stage 5 glory while Molard and Britain’s Fred Wright fought for the red jersey in his wake.
‘Nobody wants it!’ – Soler holds off squabbling chasers to take solo win on Stage 5
Spain’s Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) showcased his never-say-die spirit with a typically yo-yoing ride to secure the host nation’s first stage win on any Grand Tour for almost two years. Not only did Soler have to bridge over to a large breakaway on the first of five categorised climbs, but the 28-year-old livewire was forced to battle back after being dropped on the final ascent before soloing to the second Vuelta stage win of his career.
A strong chase group of 10 riders came within touching distance of sweeping up Soler in the streets of Bilbao, but the lone leader dug deep and made the most of a lack of collaboration behind to take a famous win in the Basque capital.
It was his first in the Vuelta since winning Stage 2 in 2020 - and a first for Spain in any Grand Tour since Ion Izagirre's Stage 6 triumph in the same race in 2020.
South Africa’s Daryl Impey (Israel-Premier Tech) took second place four second behind while Fred Wright’s four bonus seconds for third place were not enough for the Bahrain Victorious all-rounder to deny Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) the second red jersey of his career.
Frenchman Molard took fourth place on the lumpy 187.2km stage from Irun but now leads the race ahead of British youngster Wright thanks to the two bonus seconds he picked up for cresting the second ascent of the decisive Puerto del Vivero in second place behind Soler.
Overnight leader Primoz Roglic, the triple champion from Slovenia, finished safely in the peloton just over five minutes down as Jumbo-Visma relinquished their grip on the red jersey for the first time in the race since their victory in the opening team time trial in Utrecht.
Roglic had become the fourth different Jumbo-Visma rider to don the red jersey following his Stage 4 victory at Laguardia on Tuesday, but the 32-year-old wilfully dropped to fifth place, 4’09” behind Molard, ahead of Thursday’s first summit finish.
Molard now leads the Vuelta by two seconds on Wright, with Germany’s Nikias Arndt (Team DSM) up to third place at 1’09” and American Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) in fourth at 2’27”.
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Wright took over the white jersey as best young rider while his fellow escapee Victor Langellotti – a late call-up to the Burgos-BH team and the first rider from Monaco to ride the Vuelta – took over the polka dot jersey after taking maximum points over the first three climbs of the day.
On a day not suited to the sprinters – with almost 3,000m of vertical gain and very little flat roads to speak of – Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) retained the green jersey ahead of Denmark’s Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo, whose run of three consecutive runner-up spots came to a definitive end with his 139th place in Bilbao.
While the stage profile looked ideally suited for a breakaway, it took 74km for the day’s move to go – a strong and cosmopolitan group of 18 riders coming together ahead of the first of three Cat.3 ascents, the Puerto de Gontzagarigana. Having missed the move, Soler bridged over to the leaders where he replaced Jaakko Hanninen (Ag2R-Citroen) after the Finn crashed into the barriers on a descent.
With the gap growing above four minutes, Molard – the best-placed rider in the break – sniffed out an opportunity to lead the Vuelta, four years after he enjoyed four days in red in 2018. Trailing Roglic by 58 seconds ahead of the stage, Molard made it his job to stick as tightly as possible to the wheel of Wright, the second-best placed rider in the standings at 1’02”.
Wright claims ‘legs were almost too good’ after another near-miss
Monaco’s Langellotti crested all three of the Cat.3 climbs in pole position to move into the virtual lead of the polka dot jersey standings. And when Craddock made the first move in the break by riding clear on the first of two ascents of the Cat.2 Puerto del Vivero, it was Langellotti who led the chase and almost caught the American just ahead of the summit.
Second place over the top was enough to guarantee the 27-year-old Grand Tour debutant the polka dot jersey – and the insatiable Langellotti followed it up by leading the breakaway through the intermediate sprint at the first crossing of the finish line in Bilbao.
Groupama-FDJ looked to make the most of their numerical advantage by sending Jake Stewart up the road – but not after Soler put in the first of his attacks as the tempo increased going through the industrial port city in northern Spain.
British debutant Stewart built up a 40-second gap over 10 chasers going onto the second ascent of a climb that will also feature in the opening stage of the 2023 Tour de France, set to start in nearby San Sebastian.
Dropped at the start of the short but sharp climb, Soler fought back before riding clear of the chasers in pursuit of Stewart, whom he caught one kilometre from the summit. Soler kept pressing on and held a slender 10-second gap over the top as Molard took those two vital bonus seconds for taking second place.
With the gap coming down to less than five seconds as the riders entered Bilbao, Soler held on for memorable win while Molard stuck to Wright’s wheel and did all that was necessary to ensure he took the red jersey into Thursday’s summit finish on the Pico Jano.
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