Nacer Bouhanni finds a flat stage in the middle of the Vuelta

It’s unusual for the Vuelta to get through an entire stage without taking a detour to go up some hill or other, but on stage eight it managed it. However, the Vuelta being the Vuelta, it still managed to fill this seemingly most predictable of days with its fair quota of uncertainty.

It was a day of crosswinds and if you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ll know that’s always a good thing. The race split into several groups as riders struggling to shelter from the wind couldn’t ride fast enough to stay with the bunch. In the end, most of the groups came together again and only a few of the outsiders for the overall lost time, but for a while Nairo Quintana and Dan Martin found themselves behind, struggling to catch up.

Who won?

Nacer Bouhanni, but you already knew that because I put his name in the article title. He was in the front group throughout and then underlined his status as the race’s fastest flat sprinter at the finish.

Michael Matthews came second, but even more interestingly, Peter Sagan came third. Hopefully he’ll come to the fore as the race wears on. It’ll be like a major film character suddenly showing up when you’ve been led to believe that they’ve already been killed to death by guns.

Carlos Betancur watch

He finished 6m47 down in the second-to-last group. Last man overall, Matteo Pelucchi, was a good few minutes ahead of him, so our man’s closing in on bottom spot.

Stage nine

A summit finish, but atop a wholly un-Vuelta, long, steady climb. Here’s the profile. It’s mountainous and high, which should separate the wheat from the chaff. However, the fact that the final slope isn’t really too steep should mean that there will still be be plenty of mediocre wheat in amongst the best stuff. This is good though. You don’t want the race trimmed down to a one-on-one duel this early on.