Simone Consonni earns second top 5 finish at La Vuelta for UAE Team Emirates

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Simone Consonni (far l) finished fourth on Stage 6.

Hard work paid off for UAE Team Emirates and Simone Consonni, with the Italian gaining a second top five finish at the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday.

It was another hot and hard day in the saddle for the side as they battled through Stage 6. The graft paid off with Consonni building on his fifth place finish earlier in the week with an impressive fourth on the stage.

The team’s leader, Fabio Aru, was also able to finish ahead of many of his GC rivals and climb another three spots in the standings to 13th.

The 150.7km route from Huercal Overa to San Javier Mar Menor was set up for the sprinters, with an early breakaway being gradually reeled in by the peloton and swallowed up with 28km to go.

A crash at the 25km mark split the pack and separated many of the UAE Team Emirates’ riders – who were all able to stay on their bikes and avoid injury.

Aru was kept safe at the front of the peloton and, along with Sven Erik Bystrom and Consonni, made the front group after the split.

The leading riders pushed hard in the final kilometres to distance themselves from the chasers, but the UAE riders were more than equal to the challenge.

Consonni, the team’s sprinter, continued to work hard through a technical run in to the finish and drove his way past a string of rivals to take fourth place. The stage was eventually won by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in 3:58:35”.

Commenting on his race, Consonni, 23, said: “I’m pretty satisfied because I succeeded in being in the lead group when the bunch was split, that was a great chance and I’m happy I could exploit it.

“Unfortunately I did not manage the approach to the final roundabout as well as I could have. I was not in the best position when Quick-Step Floors launched the sprint, but because it was pretty early, it allowed me to overtake some riders and get closer to a podium finish.”

Fellow Italian Aru, discussing his performance, said: “The final part of the stage suddenly became demanding because of the crash and the wind. Bystrom was impressive in managing the situation and he helped me to be in the lead group when the peloton was split.

“It was an important moment and we were ready to react. Consonni too was with us and he also succeeded in achieving a good result in the sprint, which demonstrates he’s riding well in a tough Vuelta.

“I only had one mechanical to overcome – with 40km to go a rider knocked into my gears, but I managed to reach the finish line safely, my bike is strong.”

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Simon Clarke claims stage five of La Vuelta as Rudy Molard snatches red jersey

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Australian Simon Clarke won stage five of La Vuelta as Rudy Molard took the leader’s red jersey off the shoulders of Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski.

Education First-Drapac’s Clarke beat Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema and BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi in a three-man sprint at the end of the 188.7km stage from Granada to Roquetas de Mar.

They had been part of a 25-man breakaway which also included Groupama-FDJ’s Molard, who came home in a second group just eight seconds behind.

With the main peloton, including Kwiatkowski, not crossing the line for another four minutes and 47 seconds, Molard goes into the red jersey by 61 seconds from the Polish rider.

It was the second straight day stage honours had gone to the breakaway following Ben King’s victory on stage four, but where the Dimension Data rider fell short of taking red from Kwiatkowski 24 hours earlier, Molard succeeded this time.

There was plenty of climbing on the day but the stage would be defined by the long descent to the finish. It was there Clarke, Mollema and De Marchi broke clear while Molard joined Davide Villella (Astana) and Floris De Tier (LottoNL) in a counter-attack.

Team Sky did initially chase in defence of the red jersey but it was clear as they reached the foot of the descent they were content for Molard to take it as they focused on marking the other general classification hopefuls.

It was a second Vuelta stage win for the 33-year-old Clarke, with the other coming back in 2012.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard since I last won a stage here and I just couldn’t repeat it. It’s taken me so long to get back there and have my stars aligned. Even today I wasn’t sure it was possible.

“I knew I had good legs but when you have a breakaway with so many riders the cooperation is not very good. The winning move went on the descent so it was a tricky one to pick. I knew I had good legs, I just had to pray the moves I was doing were the right ones.”

Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates was safely in the main bunch and now sits fourth overall, 71 seconds behind Molard.

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Mark Cavendish to take break from cycling after contracting virus

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Mark Cavendish will take an enforced break from cycling after being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, commonly known as glandular fever, for a second time in 18 months.

The 33-year-old has won 30 Tour de France stages, four behind the record held by Belgium’s Eddy Merckx.

His Team Dimension Data squad announced the news on Wednesday. Cavendish was also diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus in April 2017.

Cavendish last won a Tour stage in 2016 and was eliminated from this year’s race after missing the time limit on the mountainous 11th stage in the Alps.

He said: “I’ve been advised to take a period of total rest in order to fully recover.”

Team Dimension Data said Cavendish had been “unknowingly training and racing with EBV over recent months”.

The Manxman was first diagnosed with the virus, which is an illness associated with fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and sometimes an enlarged spleen, in April 2017.

“This season I’ve not felt physically myself and despite showing good numbers on the bike I have felt that there’s been something not right,” Cavendish said.

“Given this and on the back of these medical results, I’m glad to now finally have some clarity as to why I haven’t been able to perform at my optimum level during this time.

“I’m now looking forward to taking the time necessary in order to get back to 100 per cent fitness before then returning to racing again at peak physical condition.”

Cavendish experienced disappointment in 2017, crashing out of the 2017 Tour sustaining a shoulder injury.

Following his elimination from this year’s Tour, he had been scheduled to ride for Great Britain earlier this month at the European Championships in Glasgow.

However, he withdrew on “medical advice”.

It is unlikely the 2011 world champion would have been in the Great Britain team for September’s Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, due to the mountainous nature of the course.

The event usually marks the end of the season and now Cavendish can take his time to recover for 2019.

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