Frenchman Tony Gallopin used a late break to win stage seven of La Vuelta as Rudy Molard retained the leader’s red jersey.
Gallopin attacked from the leading group with a little over two kilometres of the 185.5km stage from Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon remaining, and the AG2R La Mondiale rider had enough in reserve to stay away.
Groupama-FDJ’s Molard saw his overall lead grow as Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski lost 25 seconds on the other general classification favourites after crashing on a dusty corner inside the final 10 kilometres of the rolling stage.
Frenchman Molard now leads by 47 seconds from Movistar’s veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who finished third on the stage as world champion Peter Sagan won the sprint for second place, five seconds behind Gallopin.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann is a further second back in third overall, with Britain’s Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott in fourth place, 51 seconds off red.
Kwiatkowski slips to sixth, 66 seconds down as Gallopin’s win and bonus seconds move him into fifth place.
“When we came on the last straight road, I had a plan that if I have a possibility I try to attack,” Gallopin said. “I found a good moment – and I’m so happy.
“I looked back just before the last corner, maybe 200m, 300m to go and I saw nobody behind me. So I turned and I went full the last straight – I looked back in the final 50m and they were quite far, so I knew that I can win. So it’s fantastic.”
La Vuelta continues on Saturday with a fairly flat 195km stage from Linares to Almaden.
UAE Team Emirates will put out a well-balanced team for two days of racing in Northern Europe as they take on the Brussels Cycling Classic and the GP de Fourmies.
Alongside them will be an Italian quartet of Marco Marcato, Filippo Ganna, Matteo Bono and Oliviero Troia, as well as the team’s Argentinian stagiaire Nicolas Tivani. The team will be guided by experienced sports director, Daniele Righi.
The Brussels Cycling Classic is first up on Saturday, September 1, with the GP de Fourmies taking place the day after.
Commenting on the weekend of racing Righi said: “This weekend we will take on the two races with a team that’s a mix of experience and future talent.
“We are aiming for a result with Kristoff, but it’s also a chance to test young riders like Tivani. The Argentine has the qualities to be the last lead-out man for sprinters, but also one who can win from escapes.”
The Brussels Cycling Classic is a well-established late-season race in Belgium. The flat 201.4km route departs from Jubelpark and loops round the south west of the city before culminating in a fiercely contested sprint finish in Heizel.
The GP de Fourmies, which is held in the north of France, has been running since 2005. This year’s course is 205km long and will, like the Brussels Cycling Classic, end with a bunch sprint finish.
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.”