Lotto-Soudal Cycling Team (Spain) - Jelle Wallays has won the 18th stage of the Vuelta after a thrilling finale. After being part of a three-rider breakaway for 183 kilometres long, Wallays managed to hold off one of the remaining escapees and a chasing peloton by only a few seconds!
As soon as the flag dropped, Jelle Wallays attacked and got company from Sven Eryk Bystrøm (UAE Team Emirates) and Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH). The three escapees were allowed to go clear and quickly established a gap, which peaked at around three minutes. The flat stage was controlled by the sprinters’ teams from the start, which kept the advantage of the leading trio at around 2’30” for the entire stage. In the final 25 kilometres, the peloton started to pick up the pace, but also Jelle Wallays put in strong turns at the front. At seven kilometres from the finish, Wallays accelerated, which saw his breakaway companion Bol being dropped. In the final kilometre, Jelle Wallays played it smart and remained in Bystrom’s wheel. The 29-year-old Belgian timed his sprint to perfection and was the first to cross the line, ahead of Bystrom and Sagan.
“I came to Spain with the ambition to win a stage and today I took one! Ahead of this Grand Tour, I had one to four stages in my mind, in which I could take my chance. However, my crash after the rest day interfered with my plans, leaving me with only one opportunity. I’m so happy to have taken my chance today and realize my dream!”
“When I heard we still had an advantage of 30 seconds over the peloton, I decided to stay behind Bystrom and to no longer focus on the peloton behind us. I knew he was the fastest on paper, but I also knew that the final kilometre was uphill, with gradients of 2 to 3%. I decided to stay in his wheel and to start my sprint from there. I’ve been in similar situations before and I can keep my cool. I took a shot, but the gamble helped me to this victory, so I’m very happy I stayed in Bystrom’s wheel.”
“It wasn’t easy to escape the bunch at first. My legs didn’t feel superb, but I always need time before settling into my rhythm. And the more kilometres we covered, the better I felt. I did’t have the feeling to be the strongest in the breakaway neither, but I know I can finish strong after a long day in the breakaway, which I proved again today. The wind was also in our advantage, so we were able to ride at a significant high pace. Yesterday, I changed from gear as well, enabling me to ride even faster at this course. I think we maintained an average speed of 50 km/h during the final fifteen kilometres, which is quite fast.”
“I recovered well from the previous mountain stages. I was already in great shape ahead of the Tour de France and as soon as I heard I wasn’t part of the Tour’s selection, I focussed on this Vuelta, so I started this Vuelta in a perfect shape. We came to Spain with the team to take a stage win back home and today we succeeded in our mission. After the finish it also felt like justice had been done as sports director Van Slycke called me some names earlier on the stage. That also explains my strong reaction. Then, of course, it feels good that they were not able to catch me before the finish line. No offence to the Blue squad."
"We currently are in the possession of the polka dot jersey with Thomas De Gendt as well. Saturday will be another important day for him, but he’s really strong and motivated to defend his jersey. It would be nice to go home with a stage win and the polka dot jersey, of course. Either way, we already have our desired stage win and that’s something nobody can take from us!”
Photo Credits : Photo Gomez Sports.