Vuelta Rest Day Round Up: ‘A Grand Tour is won in the final week’ Ed Hood loves to quote, but everyone knows it’s true. Ed has been keeping tracks on the Vuelta a España’s second week action… and what a lot there has been. Here are his thoughts before the big final push to Madrid.
Evenepoel still in red
We expected Remco to win; but not by this much, 48 seconds over the reigning Olympic Time Trial Champion, Roglic – a full kilometre per hour faster and almost catching his two minute man, Enric Mas in the process.
A full 1kph faster – Evenepoel dominated the TT
I’d said it was going to be a 58 x 11 day for Remco – let’s make that 60 x 11. The pundits all wait for, ‘the collapse’ but with six days in red and a stage win even if he quit tomorrow it’s not been a bad old Vuelta for the 22 years-old. And that’s Quick-Step’s 40th UCi success of the year, not bad for a team which was being consigned to the garbage back in the spring.
Not a bad ride form Mas, but…
A good day for Remco and the flooring boys then, who else ?
Despite Mas ceding almost two minutes to the Belgian he was still in the top 10 on the stage and is still on the podium; and there was an excellent ride by Rodriguez to take fourth on the stage and consolidate his fourth place on GC. Not such a great day for the third prong of the Spanish trident with Ayuso 17th on the stage and slipping one spot on GC to sixth – but with three men in the top six on GC the Home Boys are giving the Spanish Media plenty positives to talk about.
5th on the stage for Sivakov
It was a good day too for Rodriguez’s INEOS compadres; with Sivakov fifth and Geoghegan Hart eighth. Not such a good day for the Antipodeans though, Ben O’Connor was 12th on the day, dropping 1:53 and now sits 11th overall, he’s moved up from 13th but he now sits @ 7:46 on GC, not an easy gap to close at this level.
Giro winner, Jai Hindley had a ‘shocker’
Giro winner, Jai Hindley had a ‘shocker,’ losing 3:48, down in 44th spot with his GC deficit now 9:24. Former World Time Trial Champion and reigning National and Commonwealth Games Time Trial Champion, Rohan Dennis was back in 19th spot – but for a man like him all that counts in time tests is winning, he knew no one was going to beat Remco so there’s no point in going too deep.
Danny Van Poppel – Last man on the stage at nearly 45kph
And on the subject of not going too ‘deep’ – last man on the stage? Danny Van Poppel @ 8:07 but still averaging 44.765 kph and comfortably inside the 11:39 time limit.
Stage 11 ‘should’ be for the sprinters – and with Sam Bennett out of the race could it be Tim’s day?
On board cameras – Stage 10:
‘The Lord giveth, The Lord taketh away. . .’ BikeExchange’s Yates goes home with Covid – especially disappointing after his strong ‘contarreloj’ – but their Kaden Groves takes the stage.
Groves saves the day for BikeExchange-Jayco
‘Who?’ I hear you ask. Kaden Groves is a 23 years-old sprinter who was Aussie Junior Road Race Champion in 2016. He rode for the St. George continental team in 2017 and 2018 taking some solid results in Asian races. The Mitchelton Scott continental team picked him up in 2018 but his breakthrough season came in 2019, riding for the sadly now defunct top Dutch development squad, SEG Racing Academy he won two stages in the ‘pro team shop window’ Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux. Another stage win, this time in a race also with high WorldTour team visibility, the Ronde de l’Isard rendered a pro contract inevitable.
He rode stagiaire with Mitchelton Scott at the end of that year before stepping up to the WorldTour team in 2020; he won two stages in the Herald Sun Tour in Australia in February before the world went pear shaped. Last year wasn’t ‘special’ but there was a prologue win in the Tour of Slovakia – but this year he’s found his feet with stage wins in the Tours of Catalonia and Turkey before adding today’s Grand Tour stage.
Kaden Groves racing for SEG Racing Academy
The final of this stage proved again that it’s not just about finishing speed – Van Poppel and Merlier were both visibly faster – but also timing and positioning; his team got it just right to move their man into the first division of Fast Men.
Evenepoel stayed invisible, but lost Alaphilippe
Remco comfortably retains ‘rojo’ on this ‘paint drying’ day but his most trusted lieutenant, World Champion, Julian Alaphippe crashed out. ‘The Lord Giveth. . .
Stage 11 highlights:
It’s hard to explain stage racing to your ‘civilian’ friends; ‘yes, he was one of the race favourites but at the start of the race he wasn’t going well and lost time, so then he DELIBERATELY lost more time so that in later stages he’d be allowed to go up the road after a stage win because that’s a much better result than finishing somewhere like 14th overall – okay, does that make sense?’ What’s that; ‘No! and that green jersey, why don’t you get points in time trials?’ Can we leave that ‘til next time please?
Carapaz – Not ‘switched off’ at INEOS
I had imagined Carapaz had ‘switched off’ at INEOS, his head already, ‘thinking pink’ and EF but no, the man is still motivated. He just needs a Tour de France stage win now to complete the set, he already has three Giro stages to his name – one imagines that EF will see him as their Tour contender for the next three years as he enters his prime as a Grand Tour challenger at 29 years-of-age?
No ‘hat trick’ for Jay Vine
With Jay Vine in the break it looked like a hat trick for the Aussie but he excels on the long, hard, grinding, grades – this was much more technical, changing percentages and made for Carapaz who can make rapid accelerations on a climb like this.
Remco crashed, but did it make any difference?
‘Remco’s collapse?’ It wasn’t to be this day, that’s for sure as he led home, ‘The Bigs.’ What about the crash though? The next morning he said was feeling fine – but he would do, wouldn’t he? The day after a crash the adrenalin carries you through, it’s the next day that the reaction kicks in. Tomorrow shouldn’t test Remco too much but Saturday is the horror of La Pandera. . .
Movistar making the action
Movistar made the final look good, not priming for a Mas attack rather part of a wearing down process aimed at the ‘rojo’ jersey – to be continued on la Pandera on Saturday with Sunday’s mega climb to Sierra Nevada where Mas will make his move? It says here. . .
Evenepoel imposing himself at the finish
In the final of this stage Remco went to the front and as ‘our Carlton’ would say, ‘imposed himself.’ It was another big statement form the Belgian; ‘I’m in charge here !’
Stage 12 highlights:
Mads Pedersen is one big unit but Boy! The man can handle a drag race to the line – pure power.
Pedersen – Pure power!
Fast men, ‘on paper,’ Merlier and Groves were just not at the races. The man himself said: “This is super nice. We knew that this final was super good for me, and the boys were super focused all day. I am just happy that I could finally get the win and give back the boys something back for all the work they did so far – it’s really nice for all of us. Alex (Kirsch) delivered me in the last corner, so there was still 800m to go, so it was perfect that Jumbo-Visma made a good hard tempo and that Pascal Ackerman jumped early. It meant I could jump with him. It was a long, long sprint – a full sprint, so a 330m sprint today.”
No Worlds for Mads – Home to the family
Now, let’s talk ‘polemica’ and start with Mads; he does not ride the Worlds over there in Oz, saying that the parcours is too tough for him with 4,000 metres of climbing and he wants to get home to his family – the man has been racing since January so his stance is understandable.
Coquard off to hunt for UCI points
Coquard, who was second on this stage goes home tonight – the reason being that Cofidis want him home in France to ride one day races and accumulate points for the team’s struggle to avoid relegation. The French team is on 14,731 points, EF are on 14,387, BikeExchange are on 14,272 and Movistar are on 14,239 – all in the ‘danger zone.’ Grand tour stage placings inexplicably accrue less points that placings in UCi 1.1 one day races so they’re a happier hunting ground for the likes of Coquard.
Staying clear of Ayuso at the start of stage 13
Ayuso, despite his testing (+) for Covid, remains in the race, Dr. Adrian Rotunno (team Medical Director) said: “As per our internal protocols Juan Ayuso was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result this morning. He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to cases such as we saw at this years Tour de France. We have made the decision in consultation with medical representatives from the race organisation and the UCI. We are aware of Juan’s clinical picture and are closely monitoring his situation.” It’s a decision not everyone is happy about; particularly those that have already gone home, some saying that going home if you test (+) depends on your nationality and GC position. Next up, a BIG weekend, starting with La Pandera on Saturday and then Sierra Nevada on Sunday.
The final kilometre of stage 13:
Olympic titles apart, Primoz Roglič and Richard Carapaz have something in common, they’ve both came into this race ‘under done’ but are now coming nicely to the boil. When I saw Jumbo on the front on La Pandera, I thought to myself; ‘Primoz must be feeling frisky.’
Jumbo looking ‘frisky’
And so it proved, launching his attack with 3.8K to go and for the first time in this race Remco looked vulnerable – but in his defence the 22 years-old didn’t panic and the day wasn’t a disaster for him, losing the same amount of time he gained on Roglič in the time test to the Slovenian.
Roglič and López chasing behind Carapaz
The Belgian had this to say: “It wasn’t my best day, that’s for sure, and I suffered a bit as I didn’t have my best legs, but there’s no reason to panic. If this was my bad day, then I can be content with that. It’s important to recover for Sunday and try to defend myself on the tough summit finish that we have at the end of the stage.”
Stage win No.2 for Carapaz
The big ‘BUT’ in this is that it’s not really about today, it’s about tomorrow and Sierra Nevada. As I opened with, Roglič is coming to the boil and his tail will be up, as will the tails of his team mates – with Gesink and Harper impressive in their tempo setting. Remco retained his cool for sure BUT there is a fissure and Roglič will seek to drive a wedge into that crack and prize it wider. It all makes for great anticipation of Sunday on Sierra Nevada.
Not a disaster for Evenepoel
Good days for Roglič and Carapaz and not a disaster for Remco; the rest?
Mas was Mas, following and still on the podium. With all the Roglič/Remco excitement it was easy to miss a good ride by UAE’s Joao Almeida, the 24 years-old Portuguese taking fourth on the day and moving up to seventh on GC.
Rodriguez brought home Mas
Ineos’ Spanish Champion, Carlos Rodriguez returned another fine performance, fifth on the stage and consolidating his fourth place on GC; he’s only 21 years-old and a great hope for the future for Spain; my only reservation is that the word is he’s going to Movistar – sure, there’s money there but not organisation, direction or motivation – in 2024, but perhaps the team will have evaporated by then?
Ayuso stuck with Evenepoel – On a service bike
It’s hard to take in that Juan Ayuso is only 19 years-old, ninth on the day and still fifth on GC, another great hope for Spain; no fears of Ayuso going to Movistar, UAE have him on the books until 2028, they know a good thing when they see it. There were no major collapses but Kelderman and Polanc both dropped a couple of positions.
Stage 15 – Ouch!
Sunday: Sierra Nevada, HC, 19.4 kilometres @ 7.9% to 2,501 metres – the riders should just be grateful that the organisation weren’t allowed to take the race to 2,900 metres plus, as they originally planned. . .
Stage 14 highlights:
The day Roglič would deliver his, ‘Coup de grace’ to Remco? Hardly, as the young Belgian again rode with great maturity and calm; Roglič fans will say that it’s all part of a wearing down process but it looked to me as if the Slovenian had to go deep to steal those seconds from Remco; if he could have gone earlier then he would have.
Roglič – If he could have attacked early, he would have
‘The first Belgian in 44 years to lead a Grand Tour for 10 consecutive days,’ had this to say; “This morning I felt the legs were better than on Saturday, so I remained calm and confident the entire time even as the others were pushing that furious pace at the bottom of the last ascent. It was the first time in my career that I finished at this altitude and I kept fighting and pushing when the others tried to make things difficult for me. Remaining calm and confident was important, and I can be content with how things went, as I didn’t lose too much time.”
Remco still in red
And despite the constant talk of the weaknesses of his team they continue to do a good job for their man. It was another good day for Spanish cycling, Soler’s attack was ultimately abortive but good for the fans and TV. Mas even attacked – wow!
But instead of pressing it home hard when he got on to ‘Maan Lopez’ – we need proof he’s still ‘Sooper’ – who had been in the break, he sat on, that’s our Enric. Ayuso again rode strongly to give Spanish cycling great hope for the future whilst Rodriguez didn’t have his best day – the young Spaniards swapped GC places with Mas third, Ayuso now fourth and Rodriguez fifth – an excellent state of affairs for the home nation.
Can Remco survive to Madrid?
And back to the question I asked all those stages ago; ‘can Remco survive those repeated mountain stages?’ Stage 16 is for the break/sprinters; Stages 17 and 18 have hard finishes but not in the league of La Pandera or Sierra Nevada; Stage 19 with the long descent to the line should be safe; Stage 20 is tough with five climbs, three at cat.1 – but my bet is that Remco will survive.
The final words of my third ‘Vuelta rant’ go to Jay Vine; ‘on the rest day, find a good spray shop for the frame and lose the socks, Bro. . .’
Stage 15 highlights:
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