Florian Sénéchal sprinted to an unlikely maiden Grand Tour stage victory in stage 13 of the Vuelta a España on Friday as Odd Christian Eiking stayed in the red jersey.
The Frenchman, traditionally a one-day classics specialist, was working with his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates to set up Fabio Jakobsen for the sprint finish, but the Dutchman suffered a flat tyre and urged Sénéchal to push for the win instead.
Sénéchal held off a late challenge from Matteo Trentin (UAE-Team Emirates) to earn comfortably the biggest win of his cycling career, with Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) coming third. The 203.7km flat stage from Belmez to Villanueva de la Serena was a largely uneventful one for the general classification contenders.
“We did everything perfectly for Fabio but he said on the radio he had a flat tyre and there was a gap. He just told me ‘sprint, Florian!’,” Sénéchal said. “I had to keep calm and was expecting people to come past me, but nobody passed me. “I don’t know what to say at the moment – it’s crazy!”
Earlier, a three-man breakaway of Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Álvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Luis Ángel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) pushed ahead but they were inevitably caught with 25km to go before the late drama.
Norway’s Eiking (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) retained the leader’s red jersey, keeping his 58-second lead over Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and 1min 56sec advantage over the Slovenian reigning champion, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
The race heads into the mountains in its final week, starting with a summit finish on Saturday’s stage 14, which travels 165.7 km from Don Benito to Pico Villuercas.