Roglič closes the gap and takes an astonishing stage win
The final of stage eight of the Vuelta a España came down to a phenomenal duel between the two favourites, Primož Roglič and Richard Carapaz.
Both riders took their turn throwing shots at each other on the brutally steep final climb to Alto de Moncalvillo, as their rivals fought it out amongst themselves.
Roglič and Carapaz looked evenly matched in the middle section of the ascent and they rode under the flamme rouge together, having caught Astana’s Aleksandr Vlasov, but just inside the 1km marker Roglič gave one huge kick.
That last-ditch sprint opened up an insurmountable gap between the pair, as Roglič rode away to take his second stage victory of the race after his glory on the opening day.
But most importantly for the Jumbo-Visma rider is the time he gained in the overall classification.
Roglič knocked 17 seconds off his deficit to Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) thanks to the time bonuses, and jumped two places in the overall standings to second position, now just 13 seconds off the race lead thanks to the time bonuses.
It’s been an enormously demanding race for the whole peloton, but it looks as though Roglič’s explosivity in the final of mountain stages could make the difference in the overall classification, unless Carapaz can find a way to drop his rival before the final kilometres.
Another GC day in the 2020 Vuelta
The GC race in this year’s Vuelta has been relentless, as we saw yet another battle for the red jersey unfold on stage eight.
So far we’ve only had three stages that have not resulted in a shakeup between the frontrunners in the GC race, as the tough climbs and decisive summit finishes just keep coming.
On stage eight it was a dive into the unknown for the climbers on the Alto de Moncalvillo and we saw more changes to the top 10.
Richard Carapaz continues to lead the race after a valiant defence of the jersey, while Roglič moves up into second.
Dan Martin was another stand-out candidate on stage eight, taking third on the stage and holding onto his third-place spot, but unfortunately for EF Pro Cycling, Hugh Carthy lost around 20 seconds to his rivals and slipped off the podium, now sitting fourth overall at 44 seconds.
Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) shipped time on the final climb after being dropped in the closing kilometres, but he still managed to jump up a place as Marc Soler (Movistar) lost time despite the best efforts of his team.
Bahrain-McLaren’s Wout Poels also put in an outstanding ride on the final ramp of the day, landing sixth-place on the stage and jumping three places in the standings to move into the top-10.
But at 3-47 off the race lead, Poels doesn’t seem to have quite matched the star riders, who still powered into the distance at the close of the day.
Movistar take control of the action
It seems like Movistar have just remembered they’re racing their home Grand Tour.
After winning stage two with Marc Soler and then putting Alejandro Valverde back into the overall race on stage seven, Movistar decided to take control of the race on stage eight, driving the pace in the peloton for basically the entire day.
As the riders in blue lined up at the front of the peloton, it was a load off for the likes of Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, who happily relinquished their duties to focus on the final climb.
Despite all their efforts, Movistar only really benefited their rivals by dragging the rest of the peloton to the climb while Movistar’s leaders began to struggle on the huge gradients.
Enric Mas held onto his fifth place on GC, but still lost around a minute to the frontrunners, while Valvade moved up a spot to ninth thanks to his team-mate Marc Soler slipping back two places.
While it was admirable of Movistar to take on the race, the tactic didn’t pay dividends, as Mas is still two minutes behind Carapaz.
But things are still looking promising for the teams classification...
The dropouts continue, as Tom Dumoulin leaves the race
An attritional race to close out an attritional year - the 2020 Vuelta a España is becoming a race of survivors rather than thrivers.
A total of 19 riders have dropped out of this year’s race and it’s not just injuries forcing riders out.
With the unpredictability of 2020, combined with the intensity of a condensed racing season, all of the riders are struggling with fatigue.
Having fought through the Tour de France to finish seventh overall, then racing the Ardennes Classics before lining up in Spain, Dumoulin said he was just too tired to continue racing the Vuelta.
The Dutchman gave fatigue as the main reason for his falling out of contention for the general classification in Spain and he’s now said he doesn’t want to compromise next season by pushing himself unduly by staying in the race.
Dumoulin’s departure is still a blow to Jumbo-Visma, as he would still have been a huge asset deeper into the race as Roglič continues to chase the red jersey.
Alto de Moncalvillo doesn’t disappoint
The Vuelta peloton took on the Alto de Moncalvillo for the first time in its history and the fireworks swiftly followed.
While it initially looked like the savage gradients on the 8.3km, 9.2 per cent average climb might actually be too steep for any major attacks, plenty of riders decided to risk it all near the summit.
Hugh Carthy rode brilliantly and put in an ambitious attack, while Sepp Kuss also thrived on the climb before his GC leader Roglič made his move, while Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) tried his luck.
With a maximum gradient of 15 per cent, on paper the climb suited the ultra-lightweight climbers, but the reality was it still favoured the strongest all-rounders like Roglič.
But at 1,400m maximum altitude and its relatively short 8.3km, the Moncalvillo is not the highest or longest climb on this year’s Vuelta by a long stretch, so will the balance tip back in Ecuadorian Carapaz’s favour when we reach the really high mountains.
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