A disastrous day for Nairo Quintana
Time trials have never been Nairo Quintana’s strong point, yet he will still be disappointed he shipped more than three minutes to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), severely hampering his own GC ambitions.
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Quintana took the race lead in emphatic form on stage nine before the first rest day, attacking the GC group to finish second behind Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). After a couple of seasons where his form has wavered, this climbing performance echoed his win on the Galibier at the Tour de France in July.
Now, Quintana has a literal uphill battle to reclaim the red jersey, and will need to build on the climbing form he’s started to show once more, displaying the legs that helped him to previously win the Giro d’Italia in 2014, Vuelta a España in 2016, and finish runner-up at two editions of the Tour de France.
Roglič in red
Primož Roglič stormed to victory on stage 10 to take a commanding lead in the overall classification.
The Slovenian burst out of the start hut setting the fastest time at both intermediate time checks before eventually finishing 25 seconds ahead of Patrick Bevin (CCC) in second place and more than a minute ahead of his nearest GC rivals.
The Jumbo-Visma leader is now 1-52 clear of his next closest competitor in the GC, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and with a strong team accompanying him the Slovenian will take some dislodging from the race lead.
Tadej Pogacar closes the gap
Tadej Pogačar had been lurking around the top of the GC over the opening week but truly announced himself on stage nine, taking a breakthrough victory up the summit finish to move into fifth in the overall classification.
Pogačar had a fast start in the race against the clock, setting the new fastest time at check point 1 before Roglič came through and beat it. However, his start may have been too fast, an easy mistake to make as a somewhat inexperienced 20-year-old, as he then shedded time to his rivals over the rest of the course.
He eventually finished 1-29 down on Roglič, after having only trailed by 11 seconds at check point 1, but the result is nowhere near as bad as the timings may indicate.
The young Slovenian finished as the best of the rest of the GC contenders. At the start of the day he trailed Valverde in fourth place by 1-22, with the top three only a further 20 seconds away.
Although he remains in fifth place at the end of stage 10, he is now only five seconds behind Nairo Quintana, with Miguel Ángel López and Valverde both within 1-13.
Pogačar will most likely run out of steam over the next two weeks of gruelling racing in Spain, but this was a good day for the young rider. He can go to bed still dreaming of a podium place, having ticked off another day at the 2019 Vuelta.
Two days off for the GC riders…
While everyone except time trial specialists and GC contenders had basically an extra rest day on stage 10, stages 11 and 12 will provide the riders at the top of the overall with a couple of days where they can take a back seat.
Stage 11 has a few small climbs but should culminate in a bunch sprint, while stage 12 is also a largely flat affair.
Any extra energy Roglič expended to take time out of his GC rivals in the time trial he can do his best to regain whilst breakaway riders and sprinter’s teams battle for stage victories.
…then the battle for the red jersey continues
However, on stage 13 we once again head uphill, with another summit finish at Los Machucos. Stage 14 is then another gift for sprinters who manage to struggle over the gradients before Sunday’s stage 15 features four first category climbs, one of which is yet another summit finish.
With Roglič having a comfortable lead of nearly two minutes, Valverde, Quintana and López will have to come up with something special to displace him. Will we see Movistar and Astana working together to take the race to Jumbo-Visma? After a first week of exciting racing at the 2019 Vuelta, we can only hope that what the Hispanic trio lack in time-trialling ability they more than make up for in scheming and plotting.