MADRID (Reuters) - Tony Gallopin claimed a solo victory on stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana on Friday, moving ahead of the peloton with two kms to go.
His fellow Frenchman Rudy Molard retained the leader’s red jersey on a day when Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski lost time to his general classification rivals.
Gallopin timed his attack to perfection, catching out a disorganised peloton, who were unable to rival the Frenchman at the end of an up-and-down 185.7-km stage between Puerto Lumbreras and Pozo Alcon.
“We knew the final was a little bit hectic, so we had a plan,” said Gallopin, who rides for AG2R.
“When we came on the last straight road, I had a plan that if I had a possibility, I’d try to attack. I found a good moment — and I’m so happy.
“I looked back just before the last corner, maybe 200 metres to go — and I saw nobody behind me. So I turned and I went full on the last straight. I looked back in the final 50 and they were quite far, so I knew that I can win. It’s fantastic.”
World champion Peter Sagan took second place, beating Alejandro Valverde of Movistar into third in a punchy sprint.
Before the closing stages, it had been a largely unremarkable day of racing, with the peloton reeling in the breakaway around 17 kms from the finish.
However, the day’s final climb — a third-category, 4.5-km ascent at a 5.4 percent gradient of the Alto de Ceal — saw the stage come to life. A number of riders struggled with the uneven surface on the snaking descent, including Pole Kwiatkowski who crashed and fell behind the peloton.
Jesus Herrada of Cofidis went solo with five kms to go but was caught and passed by Gallopin who then pedalled to victory.
Race leader Molard finished safely within the chasing group and leads Valverde by 47 seconds overall. Emanuel Buchmann of Bora-Hansgrohe, third overall at 48 seconds down, and Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates, who is 51 seconds behind in the standings in fourth, finished together in the second group.
Kwiatkowski was 30 seconds down on Gallopin, some 25 seconds behind his general classification rivals, and slipped to sixth place, 1:06 off the red jersey.
Saturday’s stage eight is a 195.1-km route from Linares to Almaden that features a testing uphill finish, with the final 200 metres averaging seven percent in what is bound to be another tense finish.
Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; editing by Clare Fallon