The 2019 Vuelta a Espana has been a topsy-turvy race. It had more unexpected happenings than an entire series of Stranger Things. So it wouldn’t have been a shocker if today’s traditionally processional stage became an all-out war that turned the GC on its head. In the end, sanity prevailed and Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Fabio Jakobsen took the sprint win in the Madrid finale. As expected, Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic won the Vuelta overall.
It’s been a week of surprises and controversies but stage 21 behaved itself. We got all the things we’ve come to “love” from a final grand tour stage:
Teams riding arm in arm
Winners savouring the local alcohol
Futile city centre attacks
And a sprint finish
Quick-Step’s lead-out train proved to be irresistible and Fabio Jakobsen headed over the line ahead of stage-favourite Sam Bennett. It’s the Dutch rider’s second win of the race and Quick-Step’s fifth stage win at this Vuelta.
And with that, the last grand tour of the year is over. It was a strange one alright but who were the shining stars?
The winner – Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
He was the favourite and he didn’t disappoint. Roglic and the Jumbo crew seemed to have learned some lessons after his Giro failure in the spring. The team was stronger, Roglic looked fresher and he didn’t get caught up in silly mind games.
It was a professional and slick victory. Once Roglic took the red jersey in the individual time trial he never looked close to losing it. The Slovenian did what he had to do and his team were solid, powerful and protective.
Roglic’s victory means that every Grand Tour this year had a first-time winner. It does feel like 2019 is heralding a new chapter of bike racing.
The man himself seemed a little underwhelmed:
I’m a little tired but it’s a great feeling to have won.
Now I’m going to the toilet (for doping control) and then I’ll celebrate.
The podium – Roglic, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) Tadej Pogacar (UAE)
What a duo – Valverde is 39, Pogacar isn’t 21 until next week.
Both won stages of the Vuelta, (young whippersnapper Pogacar won three) and both launched attacks to get their podium position. In an era where some top-three places are “earned” by sticking to wheels and limiting the losses, there was a proper battle to get on this podium.
Pogacar feels like he’s in esteemed company:
It’s really unbelievable to be on the podium with the world champion Valverde and one of the strongest riders in Roglic.
Two Slovenians on the podium is really impressive. I’ll stay calm, ride the world championships and then try to relax in the off-season
King of the Mountains – Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R)
Burgos-BH’s Angel Madrazo made the hideous blue-splodged jersey his own for the first two weeks of the Vuelta but didn’t have the stamina in the final stretch. That meant Ag2r’s Frenchman closed out the race with some solid climbing and enough KOM points to wear the blue-dotted monstrosity in Madrid.
It’s Ag2r’s second grand tour KOM jersey of the year and we need to talk about putting the dots on shorts. It’s not a good look.
Points Jersey – Primoz RolgicEmbed from Getty Images
I have nothing more to say about him. Unless you want me to mention which sport he used to compete in?
Best Young Rider – Tadej Pogacar (UAE)
What is left to say about Pogacar? The best young rider… actually the youngest rider in the Vuelta by over a year. It was obvious he was a massive talent but this result surprised many.
He comes away with the white jersey, a place on the podium and three stage wins. He’s done this at his first Grand Tour and in his first year as a professional.
Most neo-pros are talking about how hard they find the world tour and doing some bottle carrying at the Tour de Yorkshire if they’re lucky. Our young Slovenian is launching attacks, flowing up steep mountains and showing he has massive amounts of staying power.
He made some mistakes and was beaten by better riders overall but you can’t deny that he is going to be one of the names to watch next year and beyond.
Team Prize – Movistar
Ah! Movistar – the gift that kept on giving and the butt of so many jokes. At times they were the only thing that made the 2019 Vuelta worth watching.
Remember the times Nairo Quintana attacked Valverde? Especially the time he took second place from his Spanish teammate? Remember the times Valverde attacked Quintana? Especially the time he took second place from his Colombian teammate? Remember Marc Soler throwing a hissy fit when he was asked to forgo a stage win to help nurse Quintana up a climb?
The only time Movistar looked like a cohesive unit was when they all controversially put down the hammer to attack after Roglic and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) crashed. Even then they managed to provide about 15 different explanations about what happened.
BUT – you can’t deny they were the strongest team at the race. And not only through winning the convoluted best team accolade. Movistar has three riders in the GC top ten and won a couple of stages along the way.
Maybe, just maybe, they knew what they were doing? Or maybe they just brought enough firepower to get big results. Whatever the explanation, it wouldn’t have been the same race without them.
That’s it done and dusted. It felt like a long race, longer than three weeks and it was dull and repetitive at times. Yet the crazy third week was an absolute joy with riders fighting hard and the unpredictability cranked up to eleven.
The race has brought us some new names to watch, cemented some reputations and raised questions about others (Lopez, I’m looking at you).
My lasting thought is that the Vuelta confirmed that the cycling theme of 2019 is the changing of the guard. The youngsters are coming and they know no fear. That’s got to be a good thing.
1 Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck QuickStep) 2:48:20
2 Sam Bennett (Bora) same time
3 Szymon Sajnok (CCC-rememberthem) s/t
4 Jon Aberasturi (Caja Rural) s/t
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) s/t
Final GC standings
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 83:07:31
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:16
3 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +2:38
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:29
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +4:31
6 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +7:16
7 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +9:47
8 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +12:54
9 Marc Soler (Movistar) +22:10
10 Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton Scott) +22:17
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: Tadej Pogacar (UAE)
The official Vuelta website is here; for full race review, go to cyclingnews.