Molano on Winning Stage 12: ‘This victory is for my team and my family’

By Monica Buck

In the exhilarating stage 12 of the Vuelta a España, an unforeseen mechanical mishap meant Australian sprinter Kaden Groves could not contest for another victory, paving the way for Juan Sebastián Molano to seize the lead in the final stretch in Zaragoza. This triumph was marked as an exemplary collaboration between Molano and his UAE-Emirates teammate Rui Olivera who staged a crucial leadout in the race’s defining moment.

Molano’s success came after an intense contest where the Alpecin-Deceuninck team, with Groves at the helm, led the peloton throughout the majority of the stage. The team’s strategy had been to dominate one of the Vuelta’s few predetermined sprint stages. However, the meticulous plan began to unravel a few hundred meters from the finish line when Olivera surpassed the Alpecin frontline, catapulting Molano towards a spectacular victory.

The joyous Molano did not hold back his exhilaration, stating to the TV broadcasters, “I’m very happy. Thanks to my team, they did amazingly. This victory is for my team and my family.” A reflection of their precisely executed strategy, he further detailed, “We did it how it was planned. On the last corner, we had to be close to the font on the fences and open up at this point.”

The final sprint to the finish line was far from smooth, with Olivera describing it as “chaos” in a conversation with GCN+. Despite the frantic energy, he recounted his confidence during the decisive moment, saying, “With one kilometre to go, we were a bit stuck but I knew we had to wait.” Olivera’s belief in Molano’s capabilities was unshaken, stating, “I knew I had the legs from the other day and I knew if I timed it well I could perform a good leadout. I knew Molano would be on my wheel. When I saw him passing me and no one coming close, I felt like this victory was my own.”

Groves, whose sprint towards the finish was interrupted by a mechanical snag, shared his bitter-sweet sentiment: “Our team did a fantastic job. In the end, we got bumped by UAE who came with momentum and my chain actually dropped. I managed to get it back on but by then I was too far back.”

The race’s trajectory was seemingly straightforward, charting a course that largely descended during the first half and lacked significant climbs across its 150 km expanse. A bunch sprint was evidently the unanimous strategy, as evidenced by the immediate breakaway initiated by Jetse Bol (Burgos-Bh) and Abel Balderstone (Caja Rural – Seguros) as the race commenced.

Despite the day’s setback, Groves continued to display his prowess in the points classification, maintaining a dominant lead that was significantly bolstered by two prior sprint victories and a second-place finish in the Spanish race. His team, Alpecin-Deceuninck, played a pivotal role in setting the race’s tempo, strategically keeping the advancing pair’s gap under three minutes.

Further solidifying his position, Groves acquired an additional 20 points by winning the intermediate sprint with 19 km remaining. However, as the riders neared Zaragoza, the Soudal – Quick-Step team assumed control, determined to safeguard their GC leader, Remco Evenepoel.

As the racers navigated through the wide three-lane roads of Zaragoza’s outskirts and edged closer to the final 3 km mark, a sudden shift in dynamics witnessed the sprinter teams asserting their dominance. The ensuing clash of strategies reached its climax in the final kilometre where Groves, despite leading the pack, suffered a chain drop, a mishap that allowed the surging UAE team to seize the front and enabled Molano to secure a well-deserved victory.