BALCON DE ALICANTE, Spain (AP)Michael Storer won the punishing seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Friday, and Primoz Roglic kept the overall lead after the race’s most serious test in the mountains so far.
Storer, an Australian rider for DSM, claimed his biggest professional win after finishing the stage in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 13 seconds. He dropped Carlos Verona, who came in second at 21 seconds behind Storer, over the final grueling uphill kilometer.
Storer was part of a large breakaway early in the 152-kilometer (94-mile) stage starting in Gandia that took riders up and over five mountain climbs before a summit finish atop the category-one Balcon de Alicante.
”I didn’t expect to become a stage winner of La Vuelta. I knew I was in good form. I just had to have a go,” Storer said. ”I’m really happy and surprised that I managed to win today. It was a really difficult stage. I didn’t enjoy that last kilometer.”
Roglic, the defending two-time race winner, appeared to be in danger of losing the lead to one of the breakaway riders. But he managed to hang onto the red jersey despite finishing 16th at more than 3 1/2 minutes behind Storer.
Well protected by his Jumbo-Visma team, Roglic only had to respond once to an attack that included title hopeful and Olympic gold medalist Richard Carapaz. Midway through the stage, Roglic latched onto the wheel of Carapaz.
”For me it was super hot and we went already on the first climb all out,” Roglic said. ”Then for me it was just waiting to come over the finish. We saw quite some action so in the next days we can expect the same in the next days with teams who have different contenders. But we saw our guys did a great job and we’ll do our best.”
Felix Grossschartner of Bora-Hansgrohe moved into second place in the general classification at eight seconds behind Roglic. Movistar leader Enric Mas is third at :25 back. Egan Bernal trails by 41 seconds and his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Carapaz is 2:48 back.
Hugh Carthy, who finished the race third overall last year, withdrew during the day.
Former Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde also bowed out after crashing on a descent. The Spanish veteran tried to continue but called it quits minutes later.
Riders went up the narrow mountain road to the finish line without any fans to cheer them on after regional authorities closed it to the public due to the risk of wildfires amid particularly hot and dry conditions.
Saturday’s stage stays in Spain’s hot southeast for a 173-kilometer (107-mile) flat trek from Santa Pola to La Manga del Mar Menor that is made for sprinters.
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