Alexey Lutsenko (Team Astana) won stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana while our young Eritrean, Merhawi Kudus put in an incredible ride to place 2nd on the stage. Marc Soler (Movistar) rounded out the podium in 3rd while Chris Froome (Team Sky) retained the overall lead.
Stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana was an incredibly difficult 175km from Benicassim to Alcossebre. The riders had to contend with 5 categorised climbs on another scorcher of day, where the centigrade averaged in the mid to high 30’s. From the start, there was a number of attacks and Merhawi Kudus found the right move for Team Dimension Data and made the all-important break of the day.
Kudus was joined by 16 other riders to form a strong group, one which Team Sky kept close tabs on initially as the gap was held between 2 and 3 minutes for most the day. Kudus and his breakaway mates pushed on and eventually the gap grew. The decisive moment in the stage came just as the penultimate climb of the day was completed with 50km to go. Marco Haller (Katusha) attacked the break as the descent started and Lutesenko and Matej Mohric (UAE Emirates) bridged across on the downhill.
Kudus’ chasing group was not working well together and the gap started to grow to the leaders. Eventually they began attacking one another, trying to get rid of the passengers. 4 riders went clear on the long valley road that led to the final climb of the day, Kudus included. Mohric dropped from the leading group and was soon caught by the Kudus chase group.
With 11km to go, Kudus and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) rode away from their chasing counterparts, in hot pursuit of Haller and Lutsenko. At this stage the peloton was well out of contention at over 6 minutes back.
Our slight Eritrean climber and Gougeard started the final 3km climb 40 seconds behind the leading duo and almost immediately, Lutesenko dropped Haller and Kudus dropped Gougeard as the road pointed upwards. Kudus flew into 2nd place on the road but Lutsenko was riding well to keep his advantage. In the end, the climb was not long enough for Kudus to claw back Lutsenko, but a courageous ride nonetheless from our 23-year-old Eritrean saw him finish 2nd on the stage.
In not so positive news our Algerian champion, Youcef Reguigui, also fell ill today and was not able to complete the stage.
Merhawi Kudus – Rider
It was quite hard to be in the breakaway today, spending over 4 hours in the wind and then having to finish on a very steep climb like that. There was a headwind most of the day but luckily, we were a lot of guys in the break so we could keep the gap over the peloton. On the 2nd last climb the attacking started, it wasn’t very steep so it didn’t suit me but I just followed as best I could. Having to chase those 2 guys on a flat road before the last steep climb was really difficult. I am very happy with 2nd position though, I am motivated to take another opportunity now.