Five talking points from stage 16 of the Vuelta a España 2020
Roglič took valuable bonus seconds ahead of a final GC showdown tomorrow
Primož Roglič extends lead ahead of final GC battle
It was unlikely any GC action would unfold on the first category climb towards the end of stage 16, especially with the Covatilla looming tomorrow, but maybe it was that ascent that race leader Primož Roglič had in mind during the final kilometres of stage 16.
In the last 500m before the line, the red jersey and yellow arm warmers of the Slovenian could be spotted in the first 10 riders making a break for the line.
While Magnus Cort powered through to take his third Vuelta stage victory, Roglič crossed the line in second, picking up six bonus seconds to extend his lead over Ineos' Richard Carapaz to 45 seconds.
We all know how Roglič's last Grand Tour ended, and the Jumbo-Visma rider is all too aware that no amount of time is enough, while his previous performance on a summit finish saw him ship time to his rivals, Sepp Kuss stepping in to limit his leader's losses.
Carapaz wasn't far behind in the sprint finish into Ciudad Rodrigo, finishing sixth, and the Ecuadorian will have likely already concocted a plan of how he'll try and wrench the red jersey off Roglič's shoulders tomorrow. Yesterday may have been bonfire night but expect fireworks tomorrow.
Magnus Cort continues EF's Grand Tour stage streak
One stage at the Tour de France, two at the Giro d'Italia, and now three at the Vuelta a España.
The good times keep coming for EF Pro Cycling as Magnus Cort Nielsen took their third win of this Spanish Grand Tour, following Michael Woods win on stage seven and Hugh Carthy's victory atop the Angliru on stage 12.
Cort persevered during a messy reduced bunch sprint, bursting through to beat Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dion Smith (Mitchelton-Scott) and Primož Roglič to the line.
Racing results alongside EF being able to give the riders on their roster facing the end of their contracts one-year extensions to reward their loyalty during wage cuts earlier in the year, as well as the marketing success of their kit collaboration with Palace at the Giro, the American team should also be pretty pleased with themselves when they look back on this difficult year.
What's more, with Hugh Carthy third on GC and looking the strongest in the mountains so far this race, they could finish the year with more than they could ever have dreamed of back in August when the season restarted.
Cavagna makes art out of breakaway racing
If there's a breakaway up the road and Rémi Cavagna isn't in it, is it even a breakaway?
It's fair to say Remi Cavagna is a fan of the third last stage in a Spanish Grand Tour. In 2019, he took his first Grand Tour stage win on stage 19, soloing away in the last 25km and holding off the peloton by just five seconds to take the victory.
On stage 16 of the shortened 2020 edition, Cavagna made it into the day's break that rode away from the peloton in the first 30km of racing. As his collaborators fell away, Cavagna knew his first finish line was the summit of the Puerto El Robledo, and that as French time trial champion he stood a good chance on the mostly downhill and flat terrain in the final 35km of the stage that also had a tailwind.
It was looking touch and go in the final 10km as to whether the Frenchman would be caught, but it was heartbreak as he was swallowed up by the bunch with 2km to go until his second finish line of the day.
The 25-year-old does well to express his talent in a Deceuninck - Quick-Step squad already packed to the rafters with gifted bike riders, it will be exciting to see how he develops in the coming years when allowed to race for himself.
Crosswinds fail to materialise once again
For the second day in a row race-splitting crosswinds failed to materialise, as riders safely passed through the opening 35km without incident.
Strong winds had been ominously rumoured, Jumbo-Visma getting on their turbos ready for a fast start. But then, nothing.
Maybe teams lacked the energy or impetuous after a gruelling stage 15, but the peloton stayed together for the duration of the day, much to the relief of Roglič.
Vuelta to provide worst final week of 2020 Grand Tours?
Ok, maybe we've been spoiled with the 2020 Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, and spoiled to have Grand Tours this year at all, but in comparison, the finale to the Spanish Grand Tour isn't going to be able to hold a candle to the last weeks of either of those races.
The Tour's Col de La Loze, Richard Carapaz and Michał Kwiatkowski combining to take stage honours, and then the crescendo of the final time trial stage. Then, the Alpine battle in the Giro between Sunweb and Ineos to decide the pink jersey.
By contrast, the Vuelta's third week started with a time trial that saw Roglič easily put time into his rivals and leave himself with a comfortable cushion to quieten any nerves ahead of the final days of the race.
Stages 14 and 15 were then days off for the GC contenders, while stage 16 wasn't nearly hard enough for gaps to appear.
Whether the Alto de la Covatilla summit finish of stage 17 will prove tough enough to open gaps between the top three on GC, we'll have to wait and see, but Roglič's 45-second buffer seems too great for him to be caught.
Although, that is what everyone was saying before the penultimate stage of this year's Tour...maybe it's best to just let 2020 do its thing.
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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.
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