Juan Sebastián Molano powered over the line to beat Kaden Groves in an exhilarating sprint finish and win Stage 12 of La Vuelta a Espanã.
A long, hot day gently warmed and simmered before boiling over as each team tried to place their sprinter in a packed peloton that never really fractured.
It looked as if Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was in pole position to continue his awesome form, but he found himself boxed in late on, allowing Molano (UAE Team Emirates) to pounce.
Revenge is sweet for Molano
After the frustration of being overtaken on the line by Groves on Stage 4, the Colombian speedster Molano would have been desperate to claim a stage win with opportunities becoming scarce from here on out.
The long, flat route was tipped to be another potential win for the Australian powerhouse Kaden Groves however, who has been in fine form so far and has already collected victories on Stages 4 and 5.
A crash in the middle of the peloton early on saw riders such as Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) and Louis Vervaeke (Soudal-QuickStep) going down, but it was mostly a drama-free stage.
As the roads narrowed and the speed increased it felt as if another big crash was only moments away as riders tackled roundabouts and sharp turns. The rows of fans added to the atmosphere with loud cheers and hands smashing the advertising boards.
Alpecin-Deceuninck had managed Groves’ position excellently as the route entered the final kilometer.
However, they were caught short thanks to a masterful lead-out from Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) who torpedoed up the right-hand side and managed to slingshot his teammate Molano into the lead with just under 200m to go.
Molano had victory handed to him on a plate and left Groves in his wake to claim a fabulous stage win.
In contrast, Groves slammed his fists on his handlebars shortly after crossing the line in frustration at what could have been.
“Thanks to my team – They were amazing today”
Molano and his teammate Oliveira were all smiles shortly after crossing the line.
“I’m very happy to win a stage in the Vuelta last year, now this year. After the incident, it’s not easy to return but now it’s OK and I’m very happy.”
Oliveira too was over the moon.
“It was really chaos,” Oliveira said. “Our strategy was to go up the left side because the wind was coming from the right and it was bending a bit on the left…at 1km to go we were a bit stuck, but I knew we had to wait.
“I knew I had the legs from the other day, and I knew that if we timed it well, I could provide a really good lead-out.
“I decided to go at 450 meters. I knew I had good legs, and I knew I had Molano on the wheel so when I saw him passing… for me, this victory is just like [my own]. I’m so proud.”
A Quiet Day for gC Riders
Elsewhere, in an otherwise quiet day amongst the GC riders, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) gained four seconds on GC rival Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) by sprinting to the line in a clear statement of intent.
Sepp Kuss retains the red jersey and a lead of 26 seconds over Marc Soler.
Most importantly for all of the top GC riders, it was an accident-free day that kept them in contention as we head into more grueling mountain stages.
Tomorrow sees Stage 13 enter France and the peaks of the Pyrenees. Only 135 km long, but with 4,000 meters of elevation gain and the prospect of a finish atop the mighty Col du Tourmalet, this stage is anything but easy.
Vuelta a España 2023: Stage 12 Results
1. MOLANO Sebastian (UAE Team Emirates): 3:23:35
2. GROVES Kaden (AUS/Alpecin-Deceuninck): Same time
3. VAN POPPEL Boy (NL/Intermarché – Circus – Wanty)
4. OLIVEIRA Rui (POR/UAE Team Emirates)
5. THEUNS Edward (BEL/Lidl-Trek)
6. VAN DAN BERG Marijn (NL/EF Education – Easypost)
7. DAINESE Alberto (ITA/Team DSM-Firmenich)
8. AULAR Orluis (VEN/Caja Rural-Segurosrga)
9. PAGE Hugo (FRA/Intermarché – Circus – Wanty)
10. MENTEN Milan (BEL/Lotto Dstny)
Vuelta a España 2023: General Classification Standings after Stage 12
- KUSS Sepp (USA/Jumbo-Visma): 42:51:20
- SOLER Marc (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 0:26
- EVENEPOEL Remco (BEL/Quick Step): + 1:09
- ROGLIČ Primoź (SLO/Jumbo-Visma): + 1:32
- MARTINEZ Lenny (FRA/Groupama – FDJ): + 2:02
- ALMEIDA João (POR/UAE Team Emirates): + 2:16
- VINGEGAARD Jonas (DEN/Jumbo-Visma): + 2:22
- AYUSO Juan (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 2:25
- MAS Enric (SPA/Movistar Team) + 2:50
- VLASOV Aleksandr (RUS/BORA – hansgrohe): + 3:14
Vuelta a España Jerseys after Stage 12
KUSS Sepp (USA/Jumbo-Visma)
GROVES Kaden (AUS/Alpecin-Deceuninck)
HERRADA Jesús (ESP/Cofidis)
EVENEPOEL Remco (BEL/Soudal-Quick Step)
Stage 12 Combativity Award Winner
MOLANO Juan Sebastián (COL/UAE Team Emirates)