So I had a bit of a holiday during the end of Worlds week so frankly, this roundup is really late and unneeded for many.
The race went off at 1 p.m. local to the not-so-dulcet tones of Phil Liggett.
The first breakaway got off within the first few hundred meters with Rasim Reis (Turkey), Eduard Grosu (Romania) and Sebastian Schönberger (Austria) getting a gap. After the first climb, Reis dropped away and Tural Isgandarov (Azerbaijan) joined the break. Isgandarov had trouble holding on during the descent but they had a lead of 24 seconds after the first lap over a chase group that broke away during the 2nd climb on the course. Before the 1st climb on the 2nd lap, the race was back together after a fairly quick start.
As everything came together again, Schönberger rolled off the front again and brought with him Adil Barbari (Algeria) and Roman Kustadinchev (Russia). The peloton seemed to be okay with this group and they let them get a 1'08" gap. The peloton was waiting for a couple more hours before the race would heat up.
On lap 3, the peloton took a little tumble on a very strange part of the road, which seemingly had 2 levels. Those involved included Abdenour Yahmi (Algeria) and Gerardo Medina (Mexico), who both unclipped but neither fell. The gap went over 2 minutes to the breakaway while many teams including Australia, Poland, Colombia and others hitting the front at different points.
At the 1 hour and 59 minute mark, the camera guys tried to do the "Catlike helmet view". Never do this again.
Once the gap hit nearly 4 minutes, a restless peloton saw another launch attack including Owisan (Poland), Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands), Sindre Lunke (Norway) and Pierre-Roger Latour (France). Meanwhile, Barbari was dropped from the breakaway after struggling one to many times on the climbs. Floris De Tier (Belgium) bridged to the chase but the Germans, who didn't like the reactionary move, drilled it and brought everything back, which deleted 1 minute from the breaks lead, which was just 2'15".
I heard Phil call Adil Barbari as "Andrew Barbari". Never do this again.
Moves kept happening off the front of the peloton but nothing was sticking for the time being. Eritrea and Azerbaijan were tail-gunning the peloton while Schönberger and Kustadinchev went to finish the 5th out of 10 laps.. The biggest news at this point though was Caleb Ewan being temporarily dropped by the bunch on the 2nd climb of the course. Along with teammate Jack Haig, he was able to join up again.
Mike Teunissen jumped away on the 1st climb on the 6th lap and for a while, he motored on solo ahead of the peloton. After about a half lap, the Dutchman was brought back into the fold. A weird move for someone who was looking to win the race.
While the two upfront kept plugging away, Ruben Zepuntke (Germany) led a small group over the top of the 2nd climb to try and bridge inlcuding Tilegen Maidos (Kazakhstan), Willie Smit (South Africa), Amanuel Gebrezgabihier (Eritrea), Hofstede, Van Rooy and Jose Luis Rodriguez, the Chilean who was solo who they picked up. P.S. Smit has some wide, powerful looking shoulders on him. Anyways, this group was able to pull back some time to the breakaway while the peloton waited.
On lap 7, Merhawi Kudus got a flat and had a dreadfully slow change but was able to rejoin. Schönberger and Kustadinchev led out front but Zepuntke exploded the chasing group and only Hofstede was only able to join him. Zepuntke was another I was surprised with going so early when he showed form in the Tour of Alberta that he could potential go for a win. After the 1st downhill, the main group consisted of Zepuntke, Hofstede, Kustadinchev, Schönberger and Maidos with Latour chasing shortly behind. Australia, looking to keep things relatively together, was all over the front the breakaway up front kept going strong with a 1'09" back to the peloton. That gap wouldn't last.
After over 130 kilometers, Schönberger finally called it quits while Louis Meintjes hit off the front of the peloton. It was an interesting move seeing as he got his 2nd place in Florence doing the same thing and as he is no sprinter, he was going to have to attack at some point. Meintjes was off the front solo while others that attacked just behind him included Stefan Küng and Piotr Brozyna (Poland), who joined the chasing group. Then it was Ignacio Prado (Mexico) and Hernando Bohorquez (Colombia) who bridged up to that group.
Meintjes continued to power off the front alone following the 8th lap with a chasing group at 16 seconds but the peloton was bearing down. Up the first climb on the 9th lap, Meintjes was caught by a group of 16 riders. I guess even riding the Vuelta doesn't give you the power to breakaway with three laps to go and try and solo to victory. As this breakaway was getting shutdown on the 2nd climb on the penultimate lap by Australia, Kevin Ledanois (France) attempted to go for glory. He was able to go through the start/finish by himself but only by 10 seconds. Australia was still on the front.
Ledanois was dogged in his effort to stay on the front while Australia was whipping the pace up in the peloton before the first climb. As the race hit the first climb, Ledanois was kaput and just after, Joaquim Silva, the Portuguese U23 RR Champ, and Mikel Iturria (Spain) hit off the front. Silva accelerated and he stayed out for a while before being passed by Brayan Ramirez (Colombia). Behind Ramirez, Tanner Putt and Gianni Moscon joined Silva. After a brief regrouping of the chasers, Moscon went solo behind Ramirez on the descent from the first climb but slide out on a corner and crashed pretty hard.
Once the race hit the 2nd climb on the circuit, the last climb of the race, the race-defining move came. Sven Erik Bystrøm hit the front and just powered his way past Ramirez and not even the most deft climbers could bridge up to him. It was a brilliant move as Bystrøm had not shown himself at all up until that moment. When I mention deft climbers chasing him, it was the likes of Robert Power, Fernando Gaviria, Mathieu van der Poel, Tiesj Benoot and others. Bystrøm was on a flier and if he wasn't in the tuck position, he was just as frequently in the drops and powering his way to the finish. Fernando Gaviria had attacked and had a gap up on the chasing peloton but within sight of the finishing banner, Gaviria was slowed up by the peloton.
Bystrøm had time to sit up in the finishing straight and he was able to celebrate his beautiful, well-timed win. While Thor Hushovd was retiring, Norway is having a fantastic bunch coming up from the U23s with Bystrøm, Sondre Enger, Odd Eiking and more. Just behind Bystrøm, Caleb Ewan led the bunch home 7 seconds later ahead of Norway's Kristoffer Skjerping, Tiesj Benoot and Norway's Enger. 3 out of the top 5 is pretty damn good.
Australia? I think their mistake was controlling it for so long. They were on the front for over half of the race, which seems excessive. You can still be active in a race without riding on the front for nearly 100 kilometers. Still good to get a medal with Ewan in any case.