The first breakaway win of the season happened in Vuelta a Andalucía stage 1. The big teams in the peloton did not seem to care about the 8-man group for almost the entirety of the stage, granting them a monstrous lead of at least 7 minutes that opened an opportunity for a win for the pro-conti teams represented in the breakaway. The fastest from the break was 23-year-old Belgian talent Rune Herregodts, who won his second consecutive race after ending the 2021 season with a win at Ronde van Drenthe. .
The hilly stage that ended with a 1.3 km, 7.2% climb that was perfect for puncheurs like Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) and Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar). The last km of the finish was marginally steeper than the average gradient, resembling Mur de Huy that is used in La Flèche Wallonne.
The breakaway formed early on, including riders from seven different teams. The only team with two riders represented in the break was Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise with Rune Herregodts, who was by far the strongest rider in the group on the basis of 2021 results, and Lindsay De Vylder. Other riders in the break were Álvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA), Xabier Isasa (Euskaltel – Euskadi), Vojtěch Řepa (Equipo Kern Pharma), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Mark Christian (EOLO-Kometa), and Stephen Bassett (Human Powered Health).
It started to become clear in the middle of the stage that this breakaway might survive until the end. No team in the peloton did wanted to take the initiative and do the unglamorous work of pacing them back. The 8-man group worked well, and with 70 km to go the advantage had grown until 7 minutes (if the time gaps can be trusted because at one point it was announced that the gap was even 14 minutes).
The action started on Alto La Parilla (8.0 km, 3.6 %), a shallow climb with 21 km to go. At this moment riders in the breakaway started to play games because they knew that there was at least 90% chance that one of them would take the win and the leader’s jersey. The most active were Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise riders, who attacked multiple times. Considering that Herregodts was clearly the strongest rider in the group, it perhaps would have be better for his teammate De Vylder to pace the group to ensure that the gap to the peloton did not melt too fast and to close the attacks from other riders in the breakaway.
The big teams in the peloton woke up too late. INEOS brought to Andalucía a young squad with Carlos Rodriguez as the GC leader and they for some time paced on the front with the young rouleur Ben Turner, perhaps to bring back the break for Narvaez to have a chance for the stage but more so in our view to reduce the gap for Rodriguez and to lower their risks to crash. On the other hand, Team Movistar, who had a top 3 favourite for the stage in punchy Gonzalo Serrano, who won the opening stage in Andalucía in an uphill sprint in 2021 ahead of Ethan Hayter, curiously did not pace much at all.
A few kilometres to the finish, AG2R Citroën, who had stage favourite Benoit Cosnefroy, activated some of their riders at the front, but they did it too late. AG2R (and other teams such as UAE) missed a great opportunity to get a stage win, especially when AG2R brought so many rouleurs in their squad such as Dewulf, the Naesens, van Avermaet and van Hoecke.
On the last climb it was interesting to see Herregodts pacing at the front while his teammate De Vylder was drafting at the end of the break, looking exhausted. A brief moment later De Vylder was at the front when Ander Okamika of Burgos attacked, but Herregodts rather than De Vylder closed the attack.
When the breakaway was close to the finish, the first one to launch a sprint was tall American Stephen Bassett, who was not afraid to pace the group. A few meters before the finish Bassett completely broke down, almost unclipping and falling into Herregodts during the last uphill drag. The 23-year-old Belgian powered past sprinting in the saddle, to take his second pro victory and the leader’s jersey tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the fastest from the peloton was Alessandro Covi, who four days ago won a one-day race in Murcia. After him Serrano, Trentin and Cosnefroy finished, all of whom suited this finish, but their teams did not pace or started doing it too late.
Stage 2 will be another hilly stage which will end on the might cobble climb in Alcalá la Real, which was used in the 2021 race, where Ethan Hayter won on the climb (see the video below).
The finish will suit puncheurs, but also climbers like Miguel Angel Lopez or Carlos Rodriguez might be victorious.