Vuelta 2019 : A to Z, Part 2 – from New Jerseys to Zzzzz

We’ve gone through Astana to Movistar – now it’s time for Part 2 of the Vuelta A to Z. Should the Vuelta rethink their jerseys as well as its final stage?

N is for New jerseys, anyone?

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Rouleur posted a column in the midst of the Vuelta, questioning if it wasn’t time to get rid of the young rider’s jersey from grand tours, considering the age of the riders who are making it onto the final podiums, even the top steps. The current Tour de France champion, Egan Bernal, is only 22 years old and this Vuelta’s third place goes to just-turned 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, so it does rather shut the competition down (although anything is better than the impossible-to-calculate combined jersey). The solutions might be Best Rider over 35 – only viable if we actually believe that at some point in the near future, Alejandro Valverde will actually retire – or perhaps the jersey goes to the best placed rider in their first grand tour.

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And while we’re at it, why don’t we petition the Vuelta organisers to rework the points jersey? With mountain stages earning the same number of points as flats, the overall winner often takes the green jersey as well (as Roglic did this year), which offers sprinters little incentive to carry on all the way to the final stage.

O is for Out in front

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There were nine stage victories that came from the day’s break this year: Stage 5, Angel Madrazo (Burgos); Stage 6, Jesus Herrada (Cofidis); Stage 8, Nikias Arndt (Sunweb); Stage 11, Mikel Iturria (Euskadi); Stage 12, Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep); Stage 15, Sep Kuss (Jumbo Visma); Stage 16, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana); Stage 18, Sergio Higuita (EF Education First); and Stage 19, Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

P is for Pogacar

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Tadej Pogacar (UAE) certainly has had a stellar year. Taking the overall in both the Tour of California and the Volta ao Algarve this season, the Vuelta was his first-ever grand tour and he made the most of it. Winning three stages (stages 9, 13 and 20), taking the young rider’s jersey, and standing on the third step of the podium in Madrid. Stage 13, in particular, was a beautiful win with Pogacar and his compatriot Roglic riding away up the mountain with a fluidity that was poetry in motion.

Q is for QuickStep

For a team that doesn’t have a GC contender, Deceuninck-QuickStep sure have a way of playing a dominant role in a grand tour. For the Vuelta, they were the team with the most stage wins with five: two for Philippe Gilbert (stages 12 and 17), two close sprint stages for Fabio Jakobsen (stages 4 and 20) and one for Remi Cavagna (stage 19). Add to that some serious echelon chaos, driven by the team, on stage 17 and there you have another brilliant performance by a team that is supposedly only about the Classics.

 

R is for Roglic

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Primoz Roglic has ridden five grand tours, starting with the 2016 Giro d’Italia and has won at least one stage in each of them. Four ITT stages (Stage 9, Giro 2016; Stages 1 and 9, Giro 2019; and Stage 10, Vuelta 2019) as well as two mountain stages (Stage 17, Tour 2017 and Stage 19, Tour 2018) and this year, he’s stood on two grand tour podiums – the third step in the Giro and, of course, the top step of the Vuelta. Will he be a dominant GC rider in the years to come? Hard to tell, as there will be stiff competition from Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, as well as his Slovenian compatriot, Tadej Pogacar. Add to that, Tom Dumoulin, Simon Yates and Chris Froome and it looks like the next few years of grand tours will be hard fought with a changing cast of characters.

S is for Star for a day

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Although Primoz Roglic took the red jersey on stage 10 and never let it go again, there were a couple of riders who got to keep it warm for the Slovenian. Miguel Angel Lopez took the red on three separate occasions, wearing it only for a day each time (stage 1, 5 and 7); Nico Roche, stages 2, 3 and 4; Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) took his turn for a day on stage 6; and Cofidis’ Nicolas Edet took it on stage 8 and Nairo Quintana took it on stage 9.

T is for Taking the piss

It’s one thing for the peloton to let the break go away and not go full gas all day. It’s another when the peloton rolls in at a whopping 18min 35sec after the stage winner. But that’s exactly what happened on stage 11. Felt a bit like they were taking the piss …

U is for Unwritten rules

Oh those unwritten rules of cycling. One of the major ones is to not take advantage of a mechanical, crash or other problem the leader of the race might be having, if the race isn’t already on. This unwritten rule has been getting a bit of a bashing, particularly it seems by Movistar. Stage 19, early-ish in the race with a break up ahead, Miguel Angel Lopez and Primoz Roglic were caught up in a nasty crash. Once Movistar heard this, they drilled it on the front for quite a while. Although the tactic didn’t work and the riders made it back into the peloton, it started a war of words between Lopez and Alejandro Valverde, as well as some strong opinions from other teams.

V is for Valverde

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The oldest rider in this year’s Vuelta at the ripe old age of 39, Alejandro Valverde‘s history with this race is long and storied. He won the title in 2009 and has taken 12 individual stages plus 2 TTT stages in 10 editions of the race. He has stood on the Vuelta final podium a total of 7 times (1st, 2009; 2nd, 2006, 2012, 2019; 3rd, 2003, 2013, 2014) and, of course, he was on the second step in Madrid earlier this month. The curse of the rainbow jersey might have made his Classics season a bit lacklustre but the curse apparently doesn’t work in the Vuelta as he also won stage 7 in a solo win. A divisive rider at the best of times, there were points in this race that didn’t help his reputation [see U is for Unwritten rules], but never once in the three weeks did his rivals take their eyes off him.

W is for Wild cards

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While some of the big teams didn’t deliver [see L is for Lacklustre], the ProConti wild card teams punched above their weight during this year’s Vuelta. Burgos BH had a stage win with Angel Madrazo, who came second overall in the KOM competition after wearing the jersey from stage 2 to stage 16. He also took the combativity award for stages 2, 3 and 16; his teammates Jorge Cubero and Diego Rubio took the award for stages 4 and 14, respectively. Cofidis had a stage win with Jesus Herrada, who also took the combativity award for stage 6, with his brother Jose taking the award for stage 5. Teammate Nicolas Edet also had a day in the red jersey. Euskadi-Murias had their own stage winner in Mikel Iturria and combativity awards for Hector Saez and Sergio Samitier on stages 13 and 15 respectively. Caja Rural was the only wild card team who didn’t get a stage win, but they did get combativity award for Alex Aranburu.

X is for X-rays

EF Education First riders unfortunately had a lot of experience of x-rays in this year’s Vuelta, largely due to the big crash on stage 6. Rigoberto Uran was the most seriously injured, suffering a number of broken bones and a punctured lung. Teammate Hugh Carthy suffered a broken collarbone, while Sunweb’s Nicolas Roche‘s x-rays revealed that he came away from the crash with a fractured kneecap. CCC’s Victor de la Parte also went down in the crash and fractured his scapula and a rib. Tejay Van Garderen also abandoned due to a different crash on stage 6, after fracturing a finger, leaving the EF team with only five riders. But their luck changed on stage 18, when Sergio Higuita took the stage victory. 

Y is for Young’uns

Eight stages won in this year’s Vuelta were won by riders 25 or under. Tadej Pogacar (who has just turned 21) took three of those victories; Fabio Jakobsen (23) won two, while Sep Kuss (25), Sergio Higuita (22) and Remi Cavagna (24) won one a piece. At the other end of the spectrum, three stages were won by riders over the age of 35: two for Philippe Gilbert (37) and one for Alejandro Valverde (39). The final podium, of course, had the youngest and the oldest rider in the race …

Z is for zzzzzz

When will grand tours stop the whole ‘this is only a procession’ on the final stage? Other than the final few laps of the race to set up the bunch sprint, it’s just a snooze-fest. Maybe we need Movistar to be the ones who break that ‘unwritten rule’ in the future.

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