The fearsome Angliru climb awaited the Vuelta a Espana riders today and gave us action from the bottom to the top. The upper slopes of the Angliru saw a slow-motion battle for the stage as well as the GC. Hugh Carthy of EF took a memorable win with Alexandr Vlasov (Astana) and Enric Mas (Movistar) rounding out the podium. Richard Carapaz of Ineos found a second wind and made the most of the final few kilometres, putting 10sec into Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic, who looked anything but solid, and but for the help of his teammate Sepp Kuss all the way to the line, he could have lost much more time. It’s still all to play for as the race heads towards its final week.
How the race was won
Much happened before the race got to the foot of the Angliru but those events will be mere footnotes. A thrilling finale played out at glacial pace on the steep, steep slopes and tight, tight hairpins of the Asturias’ storied climb.
Despite the best efforts of a flotilla of Movistarlets and a couple of Grenadiers, the GC group arrived in huge numbers at the base of the Angliru. Straight away, Jumbo Visma got on the front and did that thing they do. That thing where they pick any of their yellow-and-black power packs and stick them on the front. That thing where they drive a pace that keeps Primoz Roglic safe and sends anyone with any sign of frailty out the back door.
The Jumbo Whittle
And, for the first 6 kilometres of the climb, that’s exactly what happened. Robert Gesink, in particular, turned himself inside out as the race headed upwards. Halfway to the top, the whittling had been done. The selection was made. We had Roglic sitting in behind teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss. Then we had the survivors of the attack of the killer bees – Michael Woods and Hugh Carthy for EF, Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel SN), Enric Mas (Movistar), Alexandr Vlasov (Astana) and Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren).
Vingegaard kept on with the pace, over the next 2 kilometres. Poels was distanced and Carapaz looked like he was going to fall off the back sometime soon.
The attack that changed the race came with 3.5 kms to go. Enric Mas – the only Movistarlet left – attacked and easily got a gap. I say easily, but this was happening on gradients around 20%. So often we see bike racing happening at 50 kph and we need to study the slo-mos to know what really happened. On the Angliru, you could watch the slow-motion action live.
The change of pace saw Dan Martin distanced at the back and Sepp Kuss set off to close the gap to Mas. Cue Roglic shouting into the team radio and Kuss sitting up to come back to his leader. It was the first sign that Roglic wasn’t feeling it today. It wouldn’t be the last. [To be honest, he looked pretty spent after yesterday’s stage during his cool down routine – ed] [Also, how big is Panache’s TV?! Not a euphemism – ed]
Sensing an opportunity, Hugh Carthy set off to catch Mas and Vlasov joined him in pursuit. Not only was there no reaction from Roglic and Kuss but Dan Martin managed to catch back up with them! Not only did we have a race on to win the stage, but we also definitely had a red jersey up for grabs.
Kuss looked like he couldn’t believe what was happening.
The gradients were then so steep you could see the physics of bike riding in action. The feet pushing the pedals, the pedals turning the gears, the gears moving the wheels. You could see Carthy inch towards Mas, Carapaz slowly ride around Roglic and, with a glacial pace, close in on the front group.
With 1500 metres to go, Primoz Roglic was last in the line of riders. Even Dan Martin had gapped him and the Irishman was a dropped rider just a few kilometres ago. It was nervy, it was thrilling and it was happening at a slower pace than coastal erosion.
And then it exploded. 200 metres from the flamme rouge, Hugh Carthy hits out. The British rider found a cadence that seemed impossible 500 metres ago and summoned up everything he had left. With Carthy in beast mode, no one else could even try to chase. Carthy wrung every single Watt of power out of his legs and headed to his first ever grand tour stage win.
It sure wasn’t pretty, but hot damn it was effective.
The gradients eased in the last few hundred metres and you could see relief followed by joy on the Prestonian’s face. He crossed the line 16 seconds ahead of Vlasov, Mas and Carapaz. Roglic, Kuss and Martin come in a further ten seconds down.
“It’s a dream come true to win. To win on Angliru, a mythical climb, it doesn’t get any better than that. Now it’s a close race going into the time trial. I think for the public that’s everything they want. There’s everything to play for.”
Changes at the top
On the GC, Richard Carapaz is back in red with a 10 second advantage over Primoz Roglic. Hugh Carthy is now in third place, just 32 seconds behind the Ineos Grenadier.
What the EF?
They’re preppy, they have terrible kit designers, they like going off the beaten track and their performances don’t often trouble the teams at the top, but EF Pro Cycling deserve a HUGE slice of kudos this year. They’ve won stages at all three grand tours, the mountains jersey at the Giro and Carthy is currently on the Vuelta podium. Not bad going. The boss is happy.
Pedals of Fury™
Before the Angliru, we had fun’n’games as Movistar decided that the race wasn’t going fast enough for them so, two climbs from home, they hit the front of the peloton and peddled with a fury. With three riders in the GC top ten and a rider ahead in the break, it was hard to work out what cards they were actually playing but it was more fun to watch than Jumbo doing a Sky.
Did it work? I have no idea. Enric Mas got a credible third on the stage but Marc Soler has dropped out of GC contention, finishing 15 minutes down.
Guess Who’s Back?
So we had Movistar driving the pace as we approached the penultimate summit. It was going to take something special to splinter that trident assault. And it came from the most unlikely of sources. Step forward Chris Froome. He’s progressed from the back of the pack in week one to front of the pack (when it doesn’t count) in week two. Froome took Carapaz out for a dig just ahead of the summit. It didn’t achieve much apart for sending Movistar back to their Big Book of Tactics, but it did show there’s life in the old dog yet.
Chris Froome may be more divisive than putting marmite on your scones before the cream but he is one of the most determined characters in the sport. It’s much better seeing him perform at this level than the forlorn figure he cut on stage one.
Credit to Cofidis
Finally, full credit to Guillaume Martin of Cofidis. He was in the break AGAIN today, scooping up full pox points on every summit before the Angliru, giving himself a lead in the mountain competition that will be hard to beat.
The Last Word
It’s a rest day tomorrow. Time for plenty of speculation about how Tuesday’s time trial will go down. Perceived wisdom says Roglic should be able to re-take the race lead, but I’m pretty sure we’ve been here before, haven’t we?
Stage 12 Results
1 Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) 3:08:40
2 Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) +0:16
3 Enric Mas (Movistartled) same time
4 Richard Carapaz (Ineos GrandadsBack) same time
5 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo QuestionMark) +0:26
GC Top 10
1 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) 48:29:27
2 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) +0:10
3 Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) +0:32
4 Dan Martin (Israel Start Up) +0:35
5 Enric Mas (Movistar) +1:50
6 Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren) +5:13
7 Felix Grossschartner (BORA-hansgrohe) +5:30
8 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +6:22
9 Alexandr Vlasov (Astana) +6:41
10 Mikel Nieve (Michelton-Scott) +6:42
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)
Points jersey Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
King of the Mountains Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)
Best Young Rider Enric Mas (Movistar)
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Official race website: Vuelta a Espana