Vuelta a Espana 2021 : Stage 9 – Magnificent Caruso solos to stage glory as an effortless Roglic tightens his grip on red

The Vuelta a Espana hit the Hors Categorie peaks and delivered a sizzling stage 9. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) reminded cycling fans that his Giro exploits were NO FLUKE. The Italian escaped from the break-of-the-day with 71km to go and carried on to claim stage victory and the blue polkas. Behind him the GC was shaken all about in the fierce heat of battle on the final climb. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) zoomed away with Movistar’s Enric Mas, then nipped around him in the closing metres to grab second on the stage and increase his GC lead by 3 seconds. Mas and his teammate Miguel Angel Lopez now sit 2nd and 3rd respectively. Oh La Vuelta IS ON!

How it started

I’m not usually one for a GC battle on a fearsome slopes. So often those stages promise fireworks and fail to deliver as riders are either already on the limit and can’t attack, or are riding for podium or top 10 and will not risk it all.  So 4500m of climbing over 188km had me wondering what level of excitement we would be treated to.  I needn’t have worried it was all action from the get go!

What wouldn’t we have given for live pictures from the race!

It took nigh on 100km – HALF THE STAGE!!!! – at a frantic average speed of 50kph for a group to finally break the elastic.

A battle so fierce they named it twice!

And what a classy break it was, containing only the strongest of the strong.

There was no one in the group likely to cause even a momentary worry to the race leader and Jumbo-Visma were happy to patrol the front and let the break do it’s thing. All remained calm(ish) until the Cat1 Alto Collado Venta Luisa. With INEOS Grenadiers pushing hard behind the break (more on that conundrum later) and the time gap tumbling Caruso decided he had to make his move. He attacked away from the group, and just kept going for the next 71km.

Behind him there were attacks a-plenty and questions a-plenty as INEOS, Movistar and Bahrain-Victorious threw down the gauntlet and took their chances on the barren yet beautiful slopes of the Alto de Velefique. Let’s vamos to the last climb!

Lacet’s for miles – 7 of them in the final kilometre.

How it finished for Damiano

Our winner deserves star billing. Holy moly what an incredible effort. Not only to get into the break in the first place, but to keep it going over 71km through that fierce heat and knowing the race was bound to explode behind him. We saw him take stage and podium glory at the Giro earlier in the year, and what a way to back it up. Only his 4th win in his professional career, two of the this year and both of those at Grand Tours. You can’t ask for more.

No one deserves those celebrations over the line more

It’s a lot. I went because I knew Ineos was doing a really hard tempo and I said ‘OK before they catch me I want to do a breakaway, maybe alone’,” Caruso said after the stage. “I didn’t expect the gap would get bigger kilometre by kilometre. It’s still unbelievable what I did. It was an amazing feeling and a repeat of this feeling after the Giro is incredible for me. The last climb was so long. I always try to keep my focus on my own tempo. Only in the last few kilometres I realised I can win today.

For those who love a stat

The start of a bleak day for Landa fans.

How it finished for the GC group

What’s the best way to unpick this stage. Hmmm well let’s start with this!

And Adam Yates (INEOS-Grenadiers) carried right on doing so. Drawing out the GC riders, making the selections putting his own team on the back foot at times.

Could this be the day we would see Yates take time? Well, no. Because Primoz Roglic had other ideas, and as we have seen so many times before the Slovenian engaged first gear and that was that.

The only rider able to go with the acceleration was one half of the Movistar Vuelta pitchfork Enric Mas.

Round the switchbacks they tousled, appearing calm but you just knew they were thinking about the finish and the bonifications they would battle out for.

Roglic laid back, let Mas lead him out then popped around him, cheeky as you like, to grab the bonus seconds for 2nd place and an extra one for good measure.

Barring ill fortune, I still can’t see anyone other than Primoz on the top step at the end of stage 21. He is making everything look easy. His acceleration on the final climb was incredible.

I also have to agree with a lot of the people on my twitter line and at least half of the people at VeloVoices. If anyone can mount a challenge for red then 2nd placed Enric Mas looks to to have the legs. With his teammate Miguel Angel Lopez now 3rd overall, we could be in be in for the fireworks we all want to see. Intrigued to see how Movistar will play this.

Although, there is always the possibility for a Movistar implosion.

Right behind the podium for the day arrived a resurgent Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious), a battling Superman and an ‘did he attack too early?’ Adam Yates. A stage win and in form Haig riding high in fourth is good news for Bahrain – Victorious almost enough to make up for the time lost by an out of sorts Mikel Landa. It was a sad sight to watch him struggle in over five minutes later.

Here’s your FINAL KM ENJOY!

The INEOS Conundrum

No mountain stage would be complete without the, by now, traditional look at the INEOS Grenadier’s tactics. Today we saw plenty of examples. They drilled it at the front of the chase using up half their team and giving Roglic an easier ride than if his team had to chase.  Why? we asked ourselves, surely that’s Jumbo-Visma’s job. Then they just as suddenly stopped again.

Yates looked good when he attacked, but he could not sustain it. Was it for himself or in a support of a leader.

Richard Carapaz couldn’t capitalise on it and the neither could Egan Bernal. The Colombian spent the last agonising kilometres swinging at the back of  a group or riding on his own.

Soooooo, just who will INEOS back going into the second week. Answers on a post card – or twitter.

The final word

All the results

Stage results 

1 Damiano Caruso (Bahrain -Victorious) 5:03:14

2 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:05

3 Enric Mas (Movistar) +1:06

4 Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) +1:44

5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar Team) same time

GC Top 10 

1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 34:18:53

2 Enric Mas (Movistar Team) +0:28

3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar Team) +01:21

4 Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) +1:42

5 Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) +1:52

6 Adam Yates (INEOS Grenadiers) +2:07

7 Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) +2:39

8 Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) +2:40

9 Felix Grossschartner (BORA-hansgrohe) +3:25

10 David De La Cruz (UAE-Team Emirates) +3:55

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey : Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Points jersey : Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step)

King of the Mountains: Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious)

Best young rider : Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers)

Best team : Movistar (of course they are!)

For full race results, go to

Official Vuelta website is here 

Leave a Reply