The sprinters who had endured a series of summit finishes in this year’s Vuelta a Espana were left disappointed by an unexpected win from the breakaway on stage 18. Belgian rider Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) took a spectacular victory, holding off the peloton in a nail-biting finale.
It was for the most part a sleepier day following the almost absurdly punishing finish the day before – on paper a day for the sprinters with 186.1 mostly flat kilometres from Ejea de los Caballeros to Lleida.
The day’s break comprised Wallays, Sven Eryk Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates) and Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH).
The three men never got much more than three minutes ahead with several teams behind working to try and ensure a rare sprint finish.
Despite their efforts, going into the final kilometre Wallays and Bystrom still held a 16s advantage. Bol had been unable to hold the pace with 7km to go.
The finish was unimaginably tense as the peloton surged to close the gap, but the two men just barely held on with Wallays proving the stronger. Peter Sagan was just over a bike's length from Bystrom in third.