Cycling round-up: Jesús Herrada takes Vuelta a España stage win as Sam Bennett ninth at Tour of Britain

Mia Griffin wins bunch sprint on opening stage of Rás na mBan

Former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas tried to turn around a disappointing Vuelta a España on Wednesday, getting into the day’s breakaway move and vying for a stage win atop the climb of La Laguna Negra. The Welshman’s Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Filippo Ganna put in a huge amount of work on that ascent to try to set things up for Thomas, but instead it was the Spanish rider Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) who proved strongest inside the steep final kilometre.

He launched an impressive attack and reached the line three seconds clear of Frenchman Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ), with Thomas 19 seconds behind in fifth. The Welshman finished the Giro d’Italia in May a close second overall, just 14 seconds behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), but his bid to chase overall victory in the Vuelta has been blighted by bad luck and a lack of form. Despite a time gain of over five minutes on Wednesday, he is a distant 18th overall.

It was a day of stalemate in the general classification with the top 17 overall remaining unchanged. The Soudal-QuickStep team of defending champion Remco Evenpoel lined out across the narrow road on the climb in a bid to limit the pace and deter attacks and while the Belgian did accelerate inside the final 300 metres, his surge was matched by race leader Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), who maintained his 1:09 advantage over Evenepoel.

The latter will believe he can overcome that time difference but even if he gaps Kuss, he also has to handle the challenge of Roglič and another Jumbo-Visma rider, Jonas Vingegaard. The race continues on Thursday with a stage to Zaragoza, then a much harder race to the top of the Col du Tourmalet on Friday.


Meanwhile Sam Bennett was again out of luck at the Tour of Britain on Wednesday, finding himself out of position in what was a chaotic finale complicated by traffic furniture plus a swarm of teams pushing forward to contest the win.

He was too far back when the sprint launched and finished ninth, with fellow Irishman Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) two places further back. The latter remains 10th overall.

The stage was the fourth in a row won by the Dutchman Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma), who leads the general classification.

Mia Griffin got the Irish campaign in Rás na mBan off to a superb start on Wednesday’s opening leg, blasting home first in a bunch sprint at the end of the stage from Kilkenny to Callan.

Competing for the Irish national team, the Kilkenny rider shone on home roads, outsprinting Paulien Koster (Team Noord Holland), Emma Jeffers (DAS-handsling), Rixt Hoogland (NWVG-Uplus), plus fellow Irish riders Marine Lenehan (Dan Morrissey Primor by Pissei) and Ellen McDermott (Team Boompods).

She repeated the feat of Lara Gillespie last year, who also won the opening stage for the Ireland squad.

Griffin now leads overall heading into Thursday’s second stage, a hilly 100.9km race from Kilkenny to the top of the Rower climb. The national criterium champion will be vying to defend her race lead, and is showing a strong return to form after concussion sidelined her from racing for several months this season.

Griffin leads the points classification while Manon de Boer (NWV Guplus) tops the queen of the mountains classification after winning Wednesday’s sole prime at the climb of Curragawn.

The Rás na mBan is Ireland’s top race for women cyclists and continues until Sunday. Aside from Thursday’s stage to The Rower, it also features stage finishes in Mountrath, Tramore and Kilkenny.

Elsewhere, Alice Sharpe was 33rd on the opening stage of the Simac Ladies Tour in the Netherlands, five seconds behind the winner Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek).

In France, Lara Gillespie (UAE Team ADQ) was 38th on stage two of the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardeche. She was in a group 14 seconds behind the solo victor Michaela Drummond (Farto-BTC Women’s Cycling Team), with Fiona Mangan 71st, 27 seconds off Drummond.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling