Vuelta 2019: Stage 9 – Pogacar takes the stage, Quintana takes the red

It was a short stage (less than 100km); it was a tough stage (5 categorised climbs … no flat ground from start to finish); it was stormy day (torrential rain, hail, thunder and lightening greeted the riders as they came into the final 10km); yet it was a fairytale ending for the Slovenian rider, Tadej Pogacar, who took his first ever grand tour stage in his first ever grand tour. And as has been the norm for this Giro, the red jersey changed shoulders again, this time from Miguel Angel Lopez to Nairo Quintana in a  tussle to the top of Cortals d’Encamp.

Rider(s) of the Race

For me, the two most impressive rides today came from UAE’s Tadej Pogacar and Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic.

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Tadej Pogacar is my first Rider of the Race because he waited for the right moment and when he saw the opportunity, he took it. When Miguel Angel Lopez staged a blistering attack on the penultimate climb with 19km to go, Pogacar stayed with the group of favourites: Roglic, Quintana, and Alejandro Valverde and for awhile, it looked like Lopez had gotten the better of them all, putting more than half a minute into the group. The Movistar duo spent their time playing cat and mouse with Roglic, trying to wear him down and drop him before making any decisive moves and for a while that worked.

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But they weren’t pulling back any time on Lopez until, during a few minutes in the race when the picture relay went down in the story, the Astana rider crashed on the gravel section and the riders caught up with him. As they started the final climb to the finish line atop Cortals d’Encamp, Quintana attacked, hoping to bridge to his teammate Marc Soler who was up ahead and hoping for a stage victory. Pogacar was the only one who could follow the Colombian and then attacked with about 2km to go, leaving the Movistar duo in his wake. On such a tough day – mentally and physically – that this young rider had the cool to wait for his moment to take a fabulous win makes him my Rider of the Race. And he was looking forward to the rain!

This stage was incredible. I was looking at it since I started. Yesterday when I saw the weather I was happy that it was going to rain. I tried to follow the attacks and I went full gas on the gravel section. It was great.

 

My second Rider of the Race goes to Primoz Roglic. This man is nothing if not tenacious. He reminds me of how Tom Dumoulin goes about making it through the mountains when all and sundry are attacking him. Roglic doesn’t panic, he doesn’t gesticulate wildly, he just finds his own rhythm and sticks to it, covering attacks where he can, staying alert to the dangers, but not freaking out if he loses wheels. He lets the riders go and then he works his way back up to them. Unfortunately, today he also had to contend with a crash on the gravel section in an incident with a motorbike but that he was able to come back and finish third in the stage is impressive.

It must be frustrating for him, considering how strong the Jumbo-Visma team were in the Tour, to be isolated in the first big test in the mountains, but Roglic never looks like he’s going to rampage his way through the bus, ripping the heads off any cuddly toys that might be lying around. At the end of the stage, he limited his losses and he is now second on GC, a mere six seconds down from Quintana and 11sec up on Lopez. With the time trial coming up on Tuesday, he must be very pleased with how today’s stage panned out.

Soler unsatisfied

One man who definitely was not pleased about the way today’s stage panned out is Movistar’s Marc Soler. One of the Spanish team’s long-suffering domestiques, who day in and day out rides hard when the mountains come up to winnow down the team’s rivals, often to see the teammates he’s riding for squander the hard work by not risking any sorts of attacks, Soler had been in the break all day and found himself alone at the front with 30sec to the good in the last handful of kilometres. As he went under the 4km banner, he must have thought he was about to take a stage win he could dine out on for the rest of his life.

Unlike Mikel Landa, however, he didn’t take his earpiece out … and the call from the teamcar came. Sit up and wait for Quintana. His reaction was unmistakeable – some gestures don’t need translation – and it was touch and go as to whether he actually would slow up for his teammate. Once he did, it must have been galling to see Pogacar whizz past … prompting another unmistakeable gesture as he peeled off to leave Quintana to finish the race on his own.

Stage results

1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE) 2:58:09

2 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:23

3 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)+0:48

4 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) same time

5 Marc Soler (Movistar) +0:57

GC standings

1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 35:18:18

2 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:06

3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +0:17

4 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:20

5 Tadej Pogacar (UAE) +1:42

6 Carl Frederik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +1:46

7 Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) +2:21

8 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +3:22

9 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +3:53

10 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) +4:46

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Points jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Climber’s jersey: Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH)

Young Rider’s jersey: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

The official Vuelta website is here; for full race review, go to cyclingnews.

Header image: GETTY/Velo/Justin Setterfield 

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