Stage 12 of the 2019 Vuelta saw us pass the halfway mark in the race with a thriller of a finish in Bilbao. Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck Quick-Step) powered to victory from the break. Behind the GC guys had another quiet day all coming in together just over 3 minutes behind.
It was a strange stage. How many times have we said that during this year’s Vuelta? The day’s breakaway wasn’t allowed to form until there were just 60 kilometres left of the stage. 19 riders quickly got a 5 minute advantage. At that point, the peloton sat up and started having lunch.
For a brief moment, it looked like Felix Grossschartner (BORA-hansgrohe) and Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton Scott) might contest the win. They went clear on the day’s second last climb and quickly got themselves a decent gap to the rest of the break. Alas, they were caught on the brutal final climb and it was on the Alto de Arriaz where the stage came alive.
Gilbert hit the front and repelled all attackers, he had a 20-second gap at the top of the ball-busting wall and held off the chasing duo of Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) on the run into Bilbao to win the stage by 3 seconds – and add a tenth Grand Tour victory to his palmares.
Rider of the Race.
Phil Gilbert. Who else? He was last seen at a grand tour in a lot of distress having fractured his patella at the 2018 Tour de France. Today must have felt like sweet relief for him. Gilbert wasn’t too happy at being left out of the Wolfpack for this year’s Grand Boucle but he made his selection for the Vuelta count.
He was first seen before the breakaway formed, doing his classic routine of sitting on the front of the peloton, keeping an eye on proceedings. When the break finally went it was no surprise to see him firmly ensconced in there.
On the final climb, he would not let anyone pass. If you tried to go round the Belgian he just went faster and made you regret your effort. Then once he’d sapped a few pairs of legs he pressed on. It was just rude the way he distanced the last remaining rider. I mean, he dropped Fernando Barcelo of the Euskadi Basque Country team, in the Basque country, surrounded by Basque fans draping Basque flags all over the climbs. In fact, in his post-race interview, Gilbert revealed the flags gave him an advantage as they narrowed the road and gave little room for anyone to pass him.
Gilbert didn’t save all his power for the climb though, he had more watts to spare for the descent and fast run into the finish. By this time Barcelo had combined with Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural) to chase down the Quickstepper. Even with their superior numbers and local knowledge they couldn’t get close enough.
Maybe, bearing in mind how he’d burned a local rider, Gilbert was all class after the race
“I’ve been racing a lot in the Basque country but never with much success. The Basque country is almost like Flanders, they love their cycling here so it’s nice to get the win”
“Today was very special. It’s my 10th stage win in a grand tour. That last climb was crazy, all the flags. The same atmosphere you find in the classics.”
“I was too slow in some corners. The crash last year is still in my head so I had a bit of hesitation but held on”
GC day off?
The GC contenders weren’t quite as languid as they were yesterday. Once they were happy with the breakaway they eased back on the gas for most of the day. Jumbo Visma sat on the front of the peloton and Primoz Roglic had no problems on the steep ramps of the final climb. Even when Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) decided to give him a short-lived but sharp test, Roglic never looked in difficulty .
What’s in store?
This big jagged saw-toothed stage. Any GC rider who wants a day off tomorrow can think again. Vamos Machucos!
1 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) 3:48:18
2 Alex Aranburu (Caja-Rural) +0.03
3 Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi-Murias) same time
4 Jose Jaoquin Rojas (Movistar) +0:22
5 Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) +0:26
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 36:05:09
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:52
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +2:11
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:00
5 Tadej Pogacar (UAE) +3:05
6 Carl Frederik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +4:59
7 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +5:42
8 Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) +5:49
9 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) +6:07
10 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +6:25
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
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: © Europa Press News/Europa Press via Getty Images