The last mountain stage, the last stage (barring crashes or DNFs) that the final podium could change, the penultimate race day of the 2020 Vuelta and the men’s pro cycling season. We expected fireworks and in a way we got them, although it felt like a slow nervous breakdown watching the final 3km of the GC race. But up ahead, FDJ’s David Gaudu took another Vuelta stage, with NTT’s Gino Mader and Ion Izagirre (Astana) second and third in the stage. Ineos’s Richard Carapaz had one more roll of the dice, which resulted in the most nail-biting three kilometres since … the Giro! With Primoz Roglic alone, under pressure and not looking his effervescent self, the fear was that he was going to lose another Grand Tour (in the same season!) on the penultimate stage. But he dug deep, rode on fumes and mental strength, and limited his losses to save the red jersey for Madrid.
Stage 16 of Vuelta 2020 was 162km to get finished before the big final mountain stage tomorrow, that wasn’t supposed to have any surprises so the breakaway thought they had a real chance. They almost did, until Ineos decided to shred the peloton, in an effort to drop Primoz Roglic and get some precious time for Richard Carapaz. Remy Cavagna (Quickstep) fought valiantly to stay out front but he was caught with a heartbreaking two kilometres to go. Then, it was a knockdown drag-out fight of a sprint between UAE’s Rui Costa and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde … that almost produced a winner, but Magnus Cort decided to rain on their parade, taking EF’s third Vuelta stage. So Valverde and Costa were second and third. Nope, a surprise second went to a stealth Roglic and third went to Mitchelton-Scott’s Dion Smith.
Stage 15 marked the longest stage of the 2020 Vuelta, fittingly during the longest week for us Americans, at a gruesome 231 kilometres. If the pure distance was not horrendous enough to send a shiver down your spine, then perhaps the weather conditions will be. Battling an aggressive headwind, dense fog, and eventual rain for the duration of the stage, Jasper Philipsen (UAE) prevailed in Puebla de Sanabria. The general classification remained unchanged after race organisers opted to neutralise the final 3 kilometres due to worsening weather conditions.