The 35-year-old Belgian finished the penultimate stage of the South American race just outside the podium.
The profile of Vuelta a San Juan stage 6 (San Juan – Difunta Correa, 152.6 kilometers) had bunch sprint written all over it, with just two third-category climbs featuring on the course, long before the finish. But things took a different turn due to the strong winds, which in the second part of the day turned into a heavy tailwind, working in the favor of the 17-man group which formed in the early part of the stage.
Iljo Keisse was one of the riders to book a place in the escape, whose maximum advantage didn't go over the four-minute mark at any point. Keisse – who played a key role in the two victories Quick-Step Floors grabbed this week – brought his contribution in the breakaway, his strong turns at the front helping the leaders whitstand the assault of the peloton, who all that could do was reduce the deficit to 25 seconds inside the last seven kilometers.
It looked like the winner will emerge from the small group up the road following a sprint, but an attack of Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) with five kilometers to go changed the expected outcome of the stage, as the Belgian opened a gap on his former companions and sailed to a solo win. Keisse was part of a small group that arrived two seconds later, managing a fourth place after spending important energy throughout the day to ensure the break will have a chance.
The peloton concluded the stage just a handful of seconds behind the escapees, with Quick-Step Floors' neo-pro Alvaro Hodeg taking 12th in Difunta Correa. Teammate Rémi Cavagna was also part of the reduced bunch and remained in tenth place overall ahead of the final stage, a short and flat one starting and finishing in San Juan.
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