Five talking points from stage 18 of the Vuelta a España 2021

GC action unfurls on the queen stage as Movistar make a success of their Vuelta and Roglič all but wins red jersey

1. Miguel Ángel López spares Movistar's blushes this Vuelta

Miguel Ángel López

(Image credit: Getty)

While the continuation of their Netflix series is currently up in the air (keep your fingers and toes and everything else crossed it does return for season three), a Vuelta a España without any sort of Movistar victory would have been a disaster for the Spanish team.

Since the 2004 edition, they have only suffered blips in 2013 and 2017 at their home Grand Tour, the most important for their sponsors, and on the queen stage 18 Miguel Ángel López stepped up and delivered the goods.

A strong attack on the formidable Altu d’El Gamoniteiru saw him jump away from the other GC riders, soon sweep up David de la Cruz and push on through the cloud to victory.

It also helped the Colombian firm up his third spot in the general classification - he now has a nearly two-minute buffer over the fourth and fifth place Jack Haig and Egan Bernal - which you would hope will be enough for stage 21's 34km-long individual time trial.

Second and third on the final GC is a decent result for the Spanish team, but this stage takes them into the territory of having had a good race. After all, when one of the two Slovenians turns up to a Grand Tour it's starting to seem like everyone else just ends up competing for second.

2. Roglič redemption arc again ends in red jersey

Primož Roglič

(Image credit: Getty)

The cycling world may begin to feel fatigued by the time the Vuelta rolls around, especially in an Olympic year, but for Primož Roglič it has allowed him to end his season on a high these past three years.

The disappointment of the Giro d'Italia in 2019 saw him bounce back three months later with his first Grand Tour victory in Spain, before the shock of the 2020 Tour de France was nearly replicated soon after at the Vuelta when he survived a final scare from Richard Carapaz, a redemption arc from France to Spain that was again replicated this year, as the red jersey looks set to once more return to Slovenian shoulders for the third consecutive year.

Sprinting away from Enric Mas and Egan Bernal to claim second on the stage and mop up even more bonus seconds to add to his advantage, Roglič will simply have to remain upright over the lumpy stage 19 and hillier stage 20 before confirming his overall victory in the final time trial.

A consummate performance from the Jumbo-Visma man, and enough to keep him at the top of his Dutch team's plans as they once again look to transfer their rider's Spanish form north of the border in France next year.

3. Egan Bernal the animator once more

Egan Bernal

(Image credit: Getty)

You can't fault Egan Bernal for trying.

Having admitted he's not been at his best at this Vuelta, and after bouncing back from his crocked 2020 to win the Giro d'Italia earlier this year, the Colombian has refused to throw in the towel during this third week.

After his willingness to go on the offensive kicked off the action on stage 17, providing a thrilling race, again on stage 18 he hit the GC wasp nest with a massive metaphorical broom on to get everyone all riled up on a climb that stung, left you feeling exhausted just looking at it.

While he couldn't prise himself away from Roglič, Mas and co., and López countered to set himself up for the stage win, Bernal tried to kick again, then hanging on to finish within touching distance of Roglič.

He currently sits fifth, seven seconds behind fourth-place Jack Haig and 1-50 behind López. It will take an almighty time trial performance from Bernal to squeeze his compatriot off the podium, but there would be no questioning how deserving he would be to have that third place.

4. Does Michael Storer know he already has a contract sorted for next year?

Michael Storer

(Image credit: Getty)

Michael Storer already has two stage wins this Vuelta a España, but still on the queen stage he was hungry for more.

Sneaking into the day's break soon after the start of the 162.6km-long stage, he began mopping up KOM points, then pushing on alone with 70km to go up the Altu de Cobertoria.

He was only eventually caught with 5km to go as the punishing gradients finally caught up with him and the GC contenders took over, left with the consolation prize of the polka dot jersey, which he should now be able to keep and wear on the final podium.

Although it's not certain how pleased his team-mate, the former wearer of the mountain jersey, Romain Bardet, will be with this gazumping.

Thankfully, Storer won't have to worry about any potential bad blood for long as he's off to Groupama-FDJ at the end of the season despite riding this Vuelta like he was fighting for a new contract.

5. Spanish still waiting for any sort of victory this Vuelta

David de la Cruz

(Image credit: Getty)

While Movistar have now taken a win for Spain at their home Grand Tour, stage honours still allude a Spanish rider this Vuelta.

David de la Cruz didn't quite have enough left in the tank to make his move on the summit finish climb work, the UAE Team Emirates caught and passed by López in the way a train passenger waits on the platform and feels the breeze from a non-stopping service whizz by.

Should a rider from the home nation not manage to come up with the goods over these final three stages, and the odds aren't looking great it's fair to say, this will be the first time since the year 2000 that a Spanish rider hasn't won a stage of the Vuelta......okay the record probably extends back much further than that (has there ever been a Vuelta without a Spanish stage winner?!) but after scrolling back 21 years I gave up, it's been a long season, and the Spanish don't need exact statistics to embarrass them further.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.