Last climb of Vuelta a San Juan stage 5 turned into a battle of attrition and led to some big gaps in the general classification.
Rémi Cavagna put in a strong ride, leaving everything on the road on Alto del Colorado, the only mountain top finish of this year's Vuelta a San Juan, which despite not having any ferociously steep gradients, averaging only 4.4% over 18.8 kilometers, blew the race apart and reshuffled the general classification.
The ascent wasn't the only hurdle of the day for the riders, also the strong crosswinds acting as an important selector, just as the big battle for the stage win was beginning to unfold. At the base of the climb, as a fantastic and hardworking Max Richeze was leading the chase behind the last survivor of the original breakaway, the main group was numbering around thirty riders, but soon only a handful were left at the front, due to the gusting winds which fractured the bunch.
Home rider Gonzalo Najar (Sindicado Empleados Publicos de San Juan) attacked from afar and went all the way to the line, taking the win and moving to first place in the standings, ahead of Oscar Sevilla (Medellin-Inter) and Filippo Ganna (UEA-Team Emirates).
Rémi Cavagna fought hard to limit the damages and paced himself admirably, despite not making the cut when the group splintered, and concluded the stage just a few minutes in arrears; still, his efforts paid dividends at the end of this demanding day, as the 22-year-old French rider of Quick-Step Floors continues to sit in the top 10 of the general classification.
"The stage was easy in the first part, but really hard in the last 20 kilometer. Jhonatan and I tried to stay in the front, but when several guys got dropped in the wind a gap opened and from that point one it was nearly impossible to come back", said an energy-drained Rémi at the top of Alto del Colorado. "I tried to return, but it was more and more difficult to do that, and I came close of going into the red in the last 200 meters. I'm a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for more today, but I'll shrug off the feeling and focus on the two remaining stages, in which we'll have the chance to get some nice results."
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