Yet another stage win for Magnus Cort
Magnus Cort is having the Grand Tour of his life, sprinting to his third victory of the past three weeks.
As a sign of the EF Education – Nippo man’s range of capabilities, each of his victories have come in differing circumstances: his stage six triumph came after holding off Primož Roglič on a climb; stage 12 he was the fastest in a traditional bunch sprint after a hilly day; and on stage 19 he was part of the day’s break and proved too strong for the six that remained of the original 18.
A winner of three stages in the Vuelta in the past two seasons, the Dane has been one of this edition’s standout riders, and he was aided wonderfully by his team-mate Lawson Craddock today.
With the peloton breathing down their back the whole race, the final remnants of the group were only assured of victory with five kilometres to go, and under the flamme rouge it was Craddock who led the seven.
Mouth agape and gasping for air, Craddock did the hard yards that allowed Cort to sit fourth in the wheels, conserving as much energy as possible before opening up his sprint and beating Rui Oliveria of UAE Team Emirates.
For a man who likes to rate hotels out of seven, we’ll award Cort a 7/7 for his Vuelta performance.
Quinn Simmons almost opens up his Grand Tour account
He’s the second-youngest rider in the race, but Quinn Simmons comes with the reputation as America’s biggest hope in cycling, and one of the sport’s most exciting talents.
Riding his maiden Grand Tour, the 20-year-old has had a quiet Vuelta, only finishing inside the top-100 once, but on stage 19 he came alive and featured heavily.
He was part of the day’s early break and stayed out front even when it was whittled down. With 34km to race, he attacked, sensing an opportunity to go clear over the day’s final uncategorised climb.
Joined by UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Oliveira, the pair worked well and stretched out a lead that hovered around 20 seconds, but it wasn’t to last more than 10 kilometres.
Simmons accepted that his best chance of victory was working with his other escapees, and into the final 500m he was the first to open up his sprint, but he had to be content with third-place behind winner Cort and Oliveira.
The Trek-Segafredo man didn’t break his Grand Tour victory deadlock, but he performed aggressively throughout, a sign of things to come.
Four years ago Simmons had never even raced a bike.
Fabio Jakobsen dropped early on
Winner of three stages already and the leader of the points classification, Friday’s fast and flat finish represented the final chance for Fabio Jakobsen to add to his win tally.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step sprinter had a metaphorical target printed on his head though, and Team DSM and BikeExchange were keen to fire their figurative arrows at the Dutchman, setting a fierce pace in the day’s early undulating terrain and successfully dropping him.
Surrounded by multiple team-mates, Jakobsen valiantly tried to reduce his distance to the peloton after finding himself adrift after only 50km of racing.
With more than 140km still to ride, the Dutchman went hard initially, but then conceded his losses, finally crossing the line in Monforte de Lemos 26 minutes behind the stage winner Magnus Cort.
The 25-year-old will therefore depart with a trio of victories to his name and almost certainly the green jersey as well, an extraordinary achievement just 13 months after his life-threatening accident at the Tour of Poland.
And more frustration for winless Matthews
Try as he like, that 2021 Grand Tour stage victory will forever remain elusive for Michael Matthews.
The Australian came close a few times at the Tour de France and finished second in the points classification, and he returned to action at the Vuelta intent on winning his first stage in a three-week race since 2017.
He has twice finished third in the past three weeks, and he had clearly circled stage 19 as a golden opportunity for him, with the day’s early mountains perfect terrain to drop his principal rival, Fabio Jakobsen.
He and his BikeExchange team-mates succeeded in doing just that, and they worked furiously on the front of the peloton to limit the breakaway’s advantage and attempt to reel them in for a bunch sprint.
But the final seven were resilient and BikeExchange, even with the assistance of Team DSM, were unable to catch the break, Matthews having to settle for 13th, sixth in the peloton’s sprint for minor places.
It continues the frustration endured by Matthews on his return to the team after four years away. Despite his efforts, the Australian hasn’t won in a year and there are few opportunities left to make amends this season.
No easy day for the peloton
After two successive summit finishes, the latter of which was as brutal as they come, the expectation was that the peloton would have an unofficial rest day on stage 19.
The medium mountain profile of the parcours, and the fast run-in to the finish, lent itself to a large breakaway forming who would eventually contest the stage honours.
But though a sizeable group of 18 did come together, a forgone victory for one of them was never a given, with the peloton working hard throughout the stage, keeping the break within just a few minutes and loathe to allow an escapee to win.
They then only admitted defeat inside the final 10 kilometres, and even then rolled home just a matter of seconds behind.
It meant that an exhausted peloton, in particular the general classification fraternity, had to work as hard as they have done throughout the last three weeks, making an already tough final week just that little bit harder.
With Saturday’s final mountain-top finish taking place tomorrow, followed by Sunday’s time trial, the riders won’t be taking their feet off the gas until Monday.
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