Who would have thought that, at the start of Stage 16 of Vuelta 2019, Jakob Fuglsang still hadn’t won an individual stage in a grand tour!?! Seems absolutely unbelievable, but it was true. However, it’s not true any more. On the second day in the quite simply stunning Asturian mountains, the mist rolled in as the Astana rider made his decisive attack on his fellow breakers with 7km to go. Shrugging off Gianluca Brambilla (Trek) and never letting Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos) within 15sec of his back wheel, Fuglsang rode to the summit of the Alto de la Cubilla as the fog got thicker to take his very first individual grand tour stage. There were cheers all round!
Rider of the Race
I’m not even going to joke about picking someone other than Jakob Fuglsang … for one thing, Midge would never forgive me! But he truly was the rider of the race today. Fuglsang has really been coming into his own these past few seasons and, after the heartbreak of crashing out of the Tour de France in July, he came to the Vuelta as a helpmate for Miguel Angel Lopez. Always a team player, the Danish rider has been a stalwart support for the young Colombian – and when the team won the opening team time trial (Fuglsang has won three of the Vuelta TTTs in his career), Lopez took the race’s first red jersey. But it’s been a hard race for Lopez, often being delivered to the foot of the final climbs and being unable to capitalise on the team’s hard pace.
It’s hard to know if today’s tactic was to have two of the strongest riders – Fuglsang and Luis Leon Sanchez – up front for Lopez to use as stepping stones for his own attack (he is in an all-mighty tussle with UAE’s Tadej Pogacar) or if the two riders were in the break in an attempt to salvage something from the race for their team. A break of 20 worked together for much of the race but when Fuglsang saw his chance and launched his attack with just 7km to go to the summit, his powerful, confident riding gave no quarter to hangers on and he rode his way to a wonderful finish atop the Alto de la Cubilla.
What else happened?
It all happened on the final climb – as is usual these days – but a lot happened.
Knox takes a leap Out in the break, Philippe Gilbert and Remi Cavagna rode in support of their young rider, James Knox. And their work paid off, as Knox was able to stay in the running when the break broke up after Fuglsang’s attack and the young QuickStepper came in 4th on the stage, and jumped from 17th in the GC to 11th. A top ten finish in his first grand tour? Surely that’s a team priority now!Embed from Getty Images
Superman tries to fly but Pogacar sticks tight While his teammates were nearly 7 minutes ahead, Miguel Angel Lopez and his remaining Astana teammates took the fight to Tadej Pogacar, who was 17sec ahead and on the third step of the podium at the start of the stage. But try as he might, he couldn’t rid himself of the young Slovenian and they crossed the line one right after the other. No change in their battle, but …Embed from Getty Images
The red jersey gets the better of the rainbows GC leader Primoz Roglic, seeing Lopez and Pogacar riding away, put in a dig to bridge to them and he stuck with them, more or less, until the completion of the stage. Although Lopez and Pogacar probably didn’t worry him, containing their attack was a smart move because it distanced Alejandro Valverde, who rode tenaciously to minimise his losses. He lost 23sec to Roglic and Pogacar. There is now less than a minute between the second and third steps of the podium.Embed from Getty Images
Quintana continues to go backwards Once Lopez, Pogacar and Roglic broke free from the GC group, Nairo Quintana seemed to go backwards at the same rate. Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe) was able to keep up with Valverde, which meant that at the end of the stage, he’d gained over 2mins on Quintana and jumped into fifth place by 3sec on the Colombian.
Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall or maybe more appropriately a fly on the casquette? Looks like Baby Blackbird is giving Superman a few top tips for the next few stages …
1 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) 4:01:22
2 Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos) +0:22
3 Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) +0:40
4 James Knox (Deceuninck QuickStep) +0:42
5 Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) +1:12
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 62:17:52
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:48
3 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +3:42
4 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +3:59
5 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +7:40
6 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +7:43
7 Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) +10:27
8 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +10:34
9 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +10:40
10 Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida) +12:05
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Climber’s jersey: Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r)
Young Rider’s jersey: Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Header image: GETTY/Velo/Justin Setterfield