Five talking points from stage 17 of the Vuelta a España 2020
A scintillating finish to the GC battle at the Spanish Grand Tour
Primož Roglič digs deep to avoid another heartbreak
A penny for Primož Roglič’s thoughts as he saw Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) ride away from him on La Covatilla. The Jumbo-Visma had already lost this year’s Tour de France at the very last hurdle, and now, with Carapaz’s having more than halved the slender 45-second advantage he held over him with a few kilometres still left to climb to the finish, it looked like history was repeating itself at the Vuelta a España.
Whatever was going on in Roglič’s head was probably obscured by fatigue, however, as he dug as deep as he ever has in his whole career to rescue his race. Ultimately he did just about enough, rallying as the summit approached to defend the red jersey with 24 seconds to spare.
Had he failed to do so, Roglič would likely have been labelled a bottler given his history. Instead, this was further proof of what Roglič really is — a serial winner. He has been outstanding throughout the race, winning a grand total of four stages en route to the overall victory.
That he showed flashes of weakness, such as today and on the Angliru last weekend, was understandable considering the amount of energy he used in pursuit of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. To be able to bounce back from that defeat to win the Vuelta a España is a real testament to the strength of his character.
Carapaz gives it his all but falls short
When Richard Carapaz launched his attack on La Covatilla, it looked like the Vuelta was his for the taking. The Ecuadorian absolutely flew up the road, with no-one else in the diminished group of favourites able to go with him, and it wasn’t long before he’d opened up a gap of half a minute.
If he’d kept gaining time at that rate he would have ended the day in the red jersey, but the momentum shifted in the final kilometres. Carapaz was still strong, but not quite as strong as he was when he initially made the attack, and couldn’t quite gain the extra time he needed to dethrone Roglič at the top of the GC.
Carapaz will therefore have to settle for second overall, but he’s given Roglič a great fight these past three weeks. He’s already taken the red jersey from him on two occasions earlier in the race, and, were it not for the many bonus seconds Roglic has accumulated throughout the race, would have done so for a third time today to be crowned overall winner.
There’s no shame in losing to a rider with the quality of Roglič, and second overall confirms Carapaz as one of the best Grand Tour riders currently in the peloton.
Carthy secures podium, and tries for even more
You would have forgiven Hugh Carthy for being content to defend his podium finish as the Vuelta drew to its end. This is, after all, the very first time the 26-year-old has competed for GC at a Grand Tour, and by placing third overall he had already vastly exceeded anyone’s expectations.
But the EF Pro Cycling rider was not content to simply defend, and instead took the race to Roglič, launching multiple accelerations on La Covatilla in an attempt to get away and gain the time needed to win the red jersey.
Despite Carthy’s efforts, Roglič was ultimately able to mark each attack, apart from one last effort towards the top, by which point there wasn’t enough road left for him to gain the 53 seconds he needed.
That means Carthy will finish third overall, a hugely impressive result and the breakthrough of a new Grand Tour contender. Following Tao Geoghegan Hart’s victory at the Giro d’Italia, British cycling suddenly seems awash with talent once again.
David Gaudu doubles up
Away from all the GC drama, another battle was taking place further up the road among the riders in the day’s break for stage victory.
Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu was victorious, managing to bring back Ion Izagirre (Astana), Gino Mäder (NTT) and impressive young Brit Mark Donavan (Sunweb) on La Covatilla after they had slipped away on the previous climb, then soloing to the top for an emphatic win.
This is Gaudu’s second summit victory of the Vuelta following his triumph atop La Farrapona last week, and, following the abandonment of his team leader Thibaut Pinot, a real sign of what the 24-year-old is capable of when unshackled from domestique duties.
Better yet, the result also sees him jump from eleventh to eighth overall, making this his highest ever Grand Tour finish and first time in the GC top 10. He looks ready for a genuine GC challenge and has earned the chance to ride as a protected team leader in one of the Grand Tours next year.
Dan Martin falls short of the podium
Like Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) at the Tour de France, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) was longing to seal what would have been a first-ever podium finish at a Grand Tour having found himself so well-placed on GC. But unlike the Australian, Martin wasn’t quite able to do so, losing more time to Carthy on today’s decisive penultimate stage.
Needing 55 seconds for a place on the podium, the Irishman was unable to attack on the final climb, and instead saw himself dropped after Carthy himself launched his first attack.
Still, Martin should still be delighted at a ride that sees him register a personal best of fourth overall, bettering his previous highest finish at a Grand Tour of sixth, at the 2017 Tour de France.
It would have been easy to write off Martin, who turned 34 earlier this year and struggled for form for most of the season, but this ride proves that he still has plenty left to offer.
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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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