Five talking points from stage 21 of the Vuelta a España 2019
A thrilling finale to what has been a more than eventful Spanish Grand Tour
Fabio Jakobsen wins the sprint
For the second time in this race, Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) got the better of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win a bunch sprint.
The fact the 23-year-old is still here, having survived the mountains on his first ever Grand Tour, is impressive enough in its own right. That he still had the legs left to win a stage despite all the efforts made over these past three weeks suggests the Dutchman has an endurance and resilience to back up his obvious sprinting speed.
In a race featuring breakthrough performances from several young riders, Jakobsen has been one of the most impressive talents of all, and looks set to keep winning bunch sprints for years to come.
Today’s victory also rounds off what has been another prolific Grand Tour for Deceuninck - Quick-Step. As well as Jakobsen’s two sprint wins, the team also enjoyed a hat-trick of successes in breakaways thanks to Philippe Gilbert and youngster Rémi Cavagna, completing a huge haul of five stage wins for the team.
Other sprinters left in Jakobsen’s wake
The final stage of a Grand Tour is always a hectic affair, as the sprinters all desperately battle it out for one final shot at a stage win.
Today was no exception, as a hotly contested sprint featuring riders spread all across the road made for a thrilling race on the finishing straight.
John Degenkolb, who has been largely anonymous throughout the race, threatened to finish on a high when his Trek-Segafredo team provided a strong lead-out in the final kilometre, only to fade away at the end. There was no sign either of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates), who for the first time in his career leaves a Grand Tour without having claimed a single victory.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) was again up there, although his late acceleration wasn’t quite enough to come past Jakobsen at the finish line.
Behind him were more surprising names, with 22-year old Szymon Sajnok (CCC) pulling off his best result of the race in third place, and Jon Aberasturi continuing Caja Rural’s impressive run with a fourth place finish.
Primož Roglič arrives safely to seal overall victory
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) struck a proud figure on the podium, at last breaking out of his usual deadpan expression and displaying a wide smile.
Overall victory here is the culmination of what has been a rapid development over the past few years. The Slovenian first came to prominence on his Grand Tour debut three years ago with a scintillating time trial stage win at the Giro d'Italia, then showed an aptitude for the mountains with another stage win in the Alps at the Tour de France a year later.
He also proved himself a capable GC rider the following year with fourth overall at the Tour de France, and went one better to seal a first ever podium finish at the Giro earlier this year.
Overcoming the disappointing end to the Italian Grand Tour, when a loss of form in the latter stages saw him lose the pink jersey, he displayed a new level of assurance and authority at the Vuelta, and was ultimately a comprehensive winner, boasting a gap of over two-and-a-half minutes over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in second.
Any doubts about his capability of winning a Grand Tour have now been answered, and he looks like a complete rider capable of competing alongside the very best in whichever Grand Tour he chooses to aim for next season.
The oldest and youngest riders of the race complete the podium
Besides Roglič, the other two riders on the podium were notable for being at the opposite ends of their career.
In second place was Alejandro Valverde, a 39-year old having competed in the 26th Grand Tour of his career, and finishing on the podium for the ninth time.
In third was Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates), who, at just 20 years old, is almost half his rival’s age, and was riding his first ever Grand Tour.
It’s remarkable to think that when Valverde was making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta way back in 22-year old, Pogačar was a mere three-year-old toddler.
The results are testament to Valverde’s astonishing longevity, almost unrivalled in the history of cycling, as well as Pogačar’s extraordinary talent.
Lisa Brennauer seals Madrid Challenge overall victory
Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) was victorious in the sprint for the second stage of the Madrid Challenge, while Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor) hung on for overall victory.
The decision to offer multiple bonus seconds at the end of each lap meant that, despite the circuit’s flat parcours, the GC race remained very much in play.
Brennauer held a four second lead overnight, ahead of Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), and the Dutchwoman attempted to overhaul her lead by taking up the fight in the intermediate sprints, ensuring an entertaining, closely-fought race.
Brennauer proved the superior sprinter, and ultimately extended her lead to ten seconds to take overall victory.
The result marks a welcome return to form for the German, and is, surprisingly for a rider of her stature, her first ever win in the WorldTour since its 2016 inception.
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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