Roglič regains red with stage victory, but does he gain enough time?
To nobody’s surprise, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) stormed to victory in the stage 13 time trial at the Vuelta a España 2020, returning to the top of the general classification in the process with just five days left to race.
The Slovenian has been on fire throughout the Vuelta, and this was his fourth stage win of the race, the most he’s ever managed in a single Grand Tour.
Yet despite this dominance, Roglič hasn’t ever exercised a firm grip in the race for the red jersey. In what has been a battle of ebb and flow between himself and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), stage 13 was the second time Roglič has had to regain the jersey from his Ecuadorian rival, having earlier lost time after trouble with his rain jacket on stage six, and after being dropped on the Angliru two days ago.
The big question now is whether this will be the last time the jersey exchanges hands? Despite his stage win, Roglič did not gain as much time as he might have expected over his GC rivals, all of whom produced excellent rides by their standards in this disciple.
He now leads Carapaz in second place by 39 seconds and Hugh Carthy in third place by 47 seconds — margins that are certainly bridgeable, especially with a brutal mountain top finish still to come on Saturday. It’s going to be an exciting end to the Vuelta.
Hugh Carthy produces the time trial of his life
Following the greatest climbing display of his career to date on the Angliru on Sunday, Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) produced his best ever time trial, finishing fourth to keep his dreams of overall victory well and truly alive.
EF Pro Cycling’s manager Jonathan Vaughters had plenty of confidence in his rider, telling Eurosport that he was “cautiously optimistic that Hugh could pull off something really special in the time trial”. But when Carthy began at a flying pace, even posting a faster time than Roglič at the first time check, even Vaughters was taken aback, tweeting that his time was “well better” than any of the team’s modelling had predicted.
Carthy did fade a little towards the end, perhaps having not timed his efforts with quite the precision as master-time trialist Roglič, but fourth-place on the stage sees him gain 24 seconds on Carapaz, and keep him well within touching distance of Roglič’s red jersey at 47 seconds.
A podium finish now looks likely, but surely overall victory should be Carthy’s aim now.
Carapaz remains well in contention, but Martin fades
Despite losing the red jersey, Richard Carapaz will on the whole be happy with how the stage panned out. 49 seconds was considerably less than the 1-55 he conceded to Primož Roglič at a similarly long time trial at the 2019 Giro d’Italia, when the two were previously locked in a battle for overall victory, and on that occasion he was able to gain enough time in the mountains to ultimately come out on top.
Carapaz’s main problem now might be a lack of opportunities left to gain the 39 seconds he needs to take the red jersey back again. But he was stronger than Roglič on the Angliru, so will certainly fancy his chances of getting that time, even if he has to wait until Saturday’s penultimate stage to do so.
By contrast, Dan Martin’s chances of winning the overall now look slim. The Irishman was already the weakest of the four GC contenders heading into the stage, placed fourth overall at 35 seconds, and is considerably more adrift now having lost 1-17 to Roglič, 52 seconds to Carthy and 28 seconds to Carapaz.
Still, thirteenth on the stage is a very good effort by a rider like Martin, who isn’t a renowned time triallist, and his loss of time was more about the qualities of his rivals’ performances than it was the deficiencies of his own.
While overall victory looks unlikely, a top three finish does remain very much on the cards. Expect the Irishman’s aggressive instincts to kick in as he chases what would be a first ever Grand Tour podium finish of his career.
A cruel near miss for Will Barta
Running parallel to the tense battle for GC was another exciting contest to win the stage, and young American Will Barta (CCC Team) nearly surprised everyone by falling just one second short of defeating hot favourite Primož Roglič.
Despite having registered nothing better than a seventh-place finish at the time trial of the Tour Poitou-Charentes et Nouvelle Aquitaine all year, Barta came from nowhere to be one of the day’s main challengers for victory, and was heartbreakingly denied victory by the narrowest of margins.
It was clear the CCC rider was on a great day when he matched the time of experienced time trial specialist Nelson Oliveira at the first time check, and continued to go from strength to strength over the rest of the course, eventually smashing the Portuguese’s time by nine seconds at the finish.
Only Roglič was able to better his time, benefiting from the steep finale of the route, and even he only managed to squeeze ahead of Barta’s time by a solitary second.
Considering that Roglič already has three wins to his name at this year’s race, it was hard not to root for Barta. But this ride suggests he has a big future ahead of him, and, at just 24-years-of age, could be a star in the making.
Another exciting time trial
Few things divide cycling fans as much as time trials. For some they’re both the ultimate test of a rider and a chance to showcase all the latest tech and scientific approaches; for others they’re bore-fests, a repetition of the same thing all day with no actual rider-against-rider action.
But I think we can all agree that the time trials in this year’s Grand Tours have all been memorable, and produced excitement to rival anything else that has happened this season. Both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia ended with game-changing time trials, with Tadej Pogačar stunningly overturning a huge deficit to claim the yellow jersey in the former, and Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley locked in a historically close battle for the pink jersey in the latter.
Stage 14 didn’t match that level of drama, but does leave things fascinatingly poised at the top of the GC. With Carapaz and Carthy both within 47 seconds of Roglič in the red jersey, the race remains wide open, setting up a thrilling end to the Vuelta — for which we have a time trial to thank.
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