Primož Roglič is dominating on all terrain
Primož Roglič had already won on the mountain top finishes of Alto de Arrate and Moncalvillo; now, for his third stage win of the race, the Slovenian has triumphed on a stage earmarked for the bunch sprinters.
Though it’s true that the uphill incline to the finish had been expected to make things difficult for the sprinters, the relative gentleness of the gradient still appeared to give them a shot at victory.
But that wasn’t accounting for the form and ability of Roglič. The Jumbo-Visma rider shot out the front of the peloton inside the final 200 meters and rode away from the rest of the peloton seemingly with ease, with the bonus seconds earned at the line and the small gap opened up at the top enough to put him back into the leader’s red jersey.
Given that there is still a time trial to come next week — the discipline in which his rivals will expect to lose the most time to him — it must be disheartening for them to concede ground to him on what looked on paper to be such a straightforward stage. On form like this, however, Roglič is irrepressible, and there’s little anyone can do to stop him.
Carapaz loses red
A day that hadn’t been expected to have any significant impact on the GC instead saw a change of overall leader, as Roglič gained just enough time on Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) to take the red jersey from him.
Once it was deemed that a gap had indeed opened up between Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) in eighth place and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Emirates) in ninth at the finish line, the three seconds Carapaz lost in addition to the bonus seconds awarded to Roglic for winning the stage was enough to overturn the thirteen second deficit between them on GC.
The time loss was not for a lack of attentiveness by Carapaz. His Ineos Grenadiers team-mates led the peloton on the run-in to the uphill drag to the finish, and Carapaz managed to place himself in second place with just 300 metres left to ride.
However, in a punchy finish like this, he’s simply no match for Roglič, and as the Slovenian accelerated Carapaz tired, slipping back to ultimately finish 14th, the wrong side of the small split.
Compared to Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling), however Carapaz might even reflect upon his ride today as a decent job of damage limitation. Whereas Enric Mas (Movistar) managed to finish on the same time as Carapaz, and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) even managed to gain a few seconds over the Ecuadorian by finishing seventh on the same time as Roglič, Carthy was caught out and was punished with a seven second loss to Carapaz.
Having been lucky to avoid a time loss on stage five, after a large crash cancelled out the time gaps at the finish, Carthy is showing a bit of a weakness in these punchy uphill finishes. If he’s to be successful in his chase for a podium finish, the Brit will have to be more attentive in the future.
Uphill finish mixes things up
Anyone reading the results of this stage in the future will find it difficult to deduce what kind of a stage it was. The top 10 was comprised of a ragtag variety of riders, with GC man like Primož Roglič and Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) duking it out with puncheurs like Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Alex Aranburu (Astana) and sprinters such as Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott) and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates).
Ultimately, the incline was too much for all of the sprinters. Of the riders in the mix for victory during the two bunch sprint finishes earlier in the race only Philipsen in ninth place was anywhere near the front this time, with yesterday’s winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) finishing well down at over six minutes, and stage four winner Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) having already been dropped earlier in the day. (More on that below).
They will all now have to wait until the final day in Madrid for another shot at victory, with another week’s worth of mountainous and rolling terrain awaiting them in what has altogether been a punishing Vuelta for the fastmen.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step again left to wait for 100th Grand Tour victory
Yesterday, Deceuninck-Quick-Step believed they had reached the historical landmark of 100 stage victories in Grand Tours when Sam Bennett crossed the line first, only to have to put their champagne on ice when the commissaires stepped in to relegate the Irishman for what was adjudged to have been dangerous sprinting.
The team was again left frustrated at the end of today’s stage, as none of their strategies for winning the stage paid off.
First sprinter Sam Bennett was seen struggling at the back of the peloton over one of the small uphill inclines earlier in the day, before being dropped altogether. Given his ability in the rolling terrain, it certainly appeared something was up with him, with illness being a possibility.
The fact that the team continued to ride at the front even while their Irish sprinter was struggling suggested that either Bennett had already informed them he was on a bad day, or that the plan had always been for another rider to go for glory. Lo and behold, Rémi Cavagna set off in pursuit of victory with an attack 10km, and his notorious diesel engine forced the peloton into a committed chase.
Even when he was reeled in 3.6km from the finish, the team still had one final option, as Andrea Bagioli went for the sprint. The young Italian’s powerful legs suggested that maybe he had always been their Plan A, but even he didn’t have a response to Roglic’s acceleration, and had to settle for third-place.
The calm before the storm
The last two days have been a rare treat for the peloton — two consecutive stages without any serious climb to contend with.
Although today’s parcours was rolling, aside from the sprint led by Roglič on the small uphill kick at the finish this was generally a day off for the GC riders, who had previously been called into action on almost every of this especially challenging route.
They’ll have been wise to save as much energy as possible given what’s in store for them this weekend. Four category one summits including a mountain top finish atop Alto de la Farrapona on Saturday is followed by the mythical Angliru on Sunday, arguably the most difficult climb used in professional cycling.
Along with the time trial that follows Monday’s rest day, this will probably be the most decisive phase of the race. Today’s racing might have been relatively uneventful, but it will be only a brief moment of calm prior to the upcoming storm.
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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.