A day of severely mixed fortunes for Ineos Grenadiers in the Vuelta a España’s summit finish at Colláu Fancuaya on Saturday saw the British team make important gains with two of their four potential pre-race GC candidates, while Richard Carapaz, the 2020 runner-up, suffered on the climbs and lost nearly five minutes.
If Carapaz is now out of the GC picture, young teammate Carlos Rodriguez, however, completed another excellent stage, shadowing Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), and Enric Mas (Movistar) to almost within striking distance of the line. The young Spanish national champion has now risen to fourth overall, 1:47 back.
2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart also performed strongly, with an eleventh place on the Colláu Fancuaya putting him into the top five on GC, at 1:54. On the contrary, Pavel Sivakov, recent winner of the Vuelta a Burgos lost another two minutes on Vuelta leader Evenepoel and has now slumped to 12th.
“It was OK, really really humid, and very slippery going into the climb, but we had to find the balance between being patient and using the team well, but not wasting them,” Geoghegan Hart told Eurosport after the stage.
“We have such a strong team here, but we don’t have the best rider, so it’s not up to us to really impose ourselves on the race. We just have to pick our moments and be smart.”
Geoghegan Hart said Ineos Grenadiers’ strategy had been to place themselves close to the front on the final climb, but the downside on such a technical, twisting ascent was “you could never take a good line.”
“In the last part, we decided to squeeze it a little bit, and it was a good day for Carlos.”
Geoghegan Hart’s consistency in the final part of a Grand Tour, when he did not fall sick, has played in his favour in the past, he said, making his main goal to “stay healthy and use your energy when you can.”
Although Sunday’s brutally-difficult final ascent of Les Praeres could well provide another big test for the GC contenders, after two challenging mountain stages, both Rodriguez and Geoghegan Hart remain an integral part of the overall battle for now.
For Ineos Grenadiers, with Carapaz off his game, their GC strategy will likely hinge on how the two progress at Les Praeres and next Tuesday in Alicante’s crucial time trial.