Pedersen powers away from pack to take Vuelta stage 13

·3 min read

Mads Pedersen tightened his grip on the Vuelta points competition by leaving the other sprinters trailing in Friday's stage 13 as Remco Evenepoel bounced back from his crash the previous day to retain his overall race lead.

The 168.4 km run from Ronda to Montilla along flat, winding roads through olive groves ended with an uphill sprint that suited Pedersen, a powerful Dane.

"We knew the final was super good," said Pedersen, thanking his Trek team-mates for leading him into position for his first stage victory of the Vuelta after three runner-up spots. "I'm just happy that I could finally get the win and give the boys back for all the work they had done so far."

"We came here for a stage win and now we have one."

When German Pascal Ackermann attacked out of the last corner, only Pedersen was able to follow.

When the Dane surged past, Ackermann sat up.

Unusually for a grand tour sprint, Pedersen was able to put bright Andalusian daylight between himself and the dispirited pack by the finish.

"Pascal jumped early and it means I could jump with him," said Pedersen. "It was a long, long straight and to follow Ackerman is also a full sprint so it was a 330m sprint today."

Frenchman Bryan Coquard of Cofidis overtook Ackermann of UAE to grab second.

Pedersen's win also put daylight between himself and his closest rivals in the points competition. He has 247 points. Spaniard Marc Soler of UAE and Briton Fred Wight of Bahrain are next on 96.

Irishman Sam Bennett of Bora, who won early stages, had collected 142 points before he was forced out, following a positive Covid test.

"Super nice to have a comfortable lead in points jersey,"  said Pedersen. "It would still have been nice to have Sam here to keep fighting for the jersey."

Belgian Evenepoel of Quick Step, who had fallen the day before, finished comfortably in the pack to maintain his 2min 41sec lead over Slovenian defending champion Primoz Roglic of Jumbo.

"It could go better, but it's going well," said Evenepoel at the finish line.

- 'Let the circus go on!' -

Spaniard Juan Ayuso of UAE completed the stage and remained fifth overall despite testing positive or Covid before the start.

"He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to cases such as we saw at this year's Tour de France," the team tweeted, quoting their medical director Dr. Adrian Rotunno.

In the Tour, Rafal Majka, also of UAE, was allowed to continue after testing positive because of a low 'viral load'.

"It was a bit of a surprise, a bit of anguish, there was an hour or two that I didn't know if I was going to be able to go out or not," Ayuso told broadcaster Eurosport at the start.

Some riders are unhappy at the way the tests results are being processed.

"Some (with positive tests) go home without knowing viral load," tweeted Spanish Cofidis rider Jose Herrada, whose brother and team-mate Jesus, had to abandon the Vuelta after a positive Covid test.

"Others are racing knowing that they are positive while waiting for viral load results. Let the circus go on!"

On Saturday, the peloton rides much of the 160.3km stage again on flat before climbing the Sierra de la Pandera at the end.