Kick-starting the final weekend of racing, stage 19 of La Vuelta looked on paper to be a rare opportunity for sprinters to have a chance for success. With just one categorised climb and a profile that was largely flat — by Vuelta standards, at least — one could have reasonably expected that viewers would see another remarkable battle between the likes of Bora-hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep. Whilst the stage results show a battle between these two, the stage was not the cookie-cutter style that I had planned for. Welcome to La Vuelta!
After a dramatic finishing 65km, 24-year-old Wolfpack member Remi Cavagna soloed to victory just ahead of Sam Bennett to win his first ever Grand Tour stage and bring QuickStep’s win tally to four stages in this year’s Vuelta. To add extra frosting to their already sweet-packed race, Cavagna’s teammates Zdenek Stybar and Philippe Gilbert placed third and fourth on the stage.
Earlier in the race, Movistar continued their franchise-long habit of dishing out drama when race leader Primoz Roglic and fellow overall contender Miguel Angel Lopez hit the deck in a crash with 65km to go. Later claiming that the team had pre-planned to attack in the crosswinds, Movistar thrust themselves to the front of the peloton to inject pace. Despite the gap between Roglic and Movistar never seriously threatening Roglic’s hefty overall lead before the boys in blue sat up, the disrespect had already been inflicted.
Rider of the Race
I’m uninspired to award anyone Rider of the Race for today’s stage. Perhaps this race, which has seemingly gone on forever, has left me simply bland. Perhaps it is because Cavagna made today’s victory look effortless.
Let’s talk about Cavagna for a moment. After being part of the original breakaway, which somehow managed not to be gobbled up in the Movistar drama, Cavagna rode away from his stage companions with 25km remaining and was never to be seen again.
My reason for being uninspired by it is simple: it just looked so effortless. There appeared to be little interest for the distanced breakaway riders to close the gap to him. Similarly, the peloton appeared to lack vigour for the chase until the final 5km.
None of this is to discount Cavagna’s victory, of course. Surviving out front on a day of serious winds and pace is no simple feat. Nor is holding a minute’s advantage over the peloton for 20 of the final 25km of a stage. In all honesty, I am pleased to see Cavagna win today. I am simply left uninspired by what amounted to lacklustre chases from both the peloton and breakaway.
I tried to do my best today. It was my last chance in the Vuelta. I gave it everything and I’m really happy because it’s my first win in a Grand Tour.
I sat on all day. My team leaders were behind me so I could keep quiet in the breakaway and save myself. I made my attack 25 kilometres from the finish line, and from that point on, I really went for it.
The Movistar Conundrum
Although we see them do it again and again, it is really truly astonishing to see Movistar continue to ignore the rules of cycling. Whether it be ignoring a literal red flag signalling neutralisation — looking at you, Nairoman — or unwritten rules of not attacking a fallen race leader, Movistar throws out the book of sportsmanship.
In today’s episode of Movistar Conundrum, the team ratcheted up the pace after Roglic and Lopez were involved in a crash 65km from the line. If you’re not familiar with the unwritten rules of cycling, one of the basic rules is not to attack a race leader during a crash or mechanical if the GC race has not caught fire yet.
Perhaps what is most astonishing about this whole situation is two things. The first of which is that no one in the peloton stepped up to slow the group and allow Roglic to rejoin. Previously, we have seen the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Bernie Eisel act as the gentlemen of the peloton. The second being that after 15km of pushing the pace, Alejandro Valverde pretended to be the one to step up. Sure, Alejandro. . . You decided to slow the peloton when you realised the Roglic group was approaching.
Miguel Angel Lopez stepped in to set Movistar’s record straight after the stage.
One really has to feel for both Marc Soler and Movistar’s PR director. . .
And spare a thought for Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin. Brought down in the same crash as Roglic and Lopez, Martin bore the brunt of the injuries from the team. With tomorrow the last mountain stage, not have the Panzerwagen as Jumbo’s road captain, protecting the red jersey, might prove critical.Embed from Getty Images
1 Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 3:43:34
2 Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:05
3 Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) s.t.
4 Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) s.t.
5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) s.t.
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 71:16:54
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:50
3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:31
4 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +4:17
5 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +4:49
6 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +7:46
7 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb)+9:46
8 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +11:50
9 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +10:40
8 James Knox (Deceuninck QuickStep) +12:44
10 Marc Soler (Movistar) +21:09
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Climber’s jersey: Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r La Mondiale)
Young Rider’s jersey: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Header image: Justin Setterfield/AFP/Getty Images