PICO VILLUERCAS, Spain (AP) – Four years later, Romain Bardet can again savor a win at a Grand Tour.
The 30-year-old rider ended his wait on Saturday when he won the mountainous 14th stage of the Spanish Vuelta.
Previously seen as one of France’s best bets to win the Tour de France, Bardet finished the 2016 Tour runner-up and was third in the great race in 2017 – the same year he won his last of three stages at the Tour.
Since then, he had not won a stage at a major race, while again coming so close at the 2018 World Championships when he finished second behind Alejandro Valverde.
The DSM leader won the 165.7-kilometer (103-mile) stage in western Spain in 4 hours, 20 minutes, 36 seconds after he dropped the last of his companions in a breakaway on the day’s third climb to the finish, atop the category-one Pico Villuercas.
Back in the peloton, surprise leader Odd Christian Eiking did well to limit the damage to his overall advantage with one week remaining.
Eiking, a Norwegian rider for Intermarche-Wanty, ensured that he will wear the red jersey for a fifth consecutive day after clinging to the tail end of the group of the hardiest general classification riders as the pace picked up on the final ascent.
Eiking said before Saturday’s stage that if two-time defending champion Primoz Roglic wanted to go on the attack, he would likely have a hard time holding him off.