Tadej Pogačar takes another stage win
The Slovenian doubled his Vuelta a España stage victory on another summit finish. Presumably unshackled by any expectation from his UAE Team Emirates team, Pogačar rode without fear up the vertical Los Machucos, attacking on the second kick, taking Roglič with him and distancing their other GC rivals.
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Roglič may have gifted the stage to Pogačar, the shared nationality making alliances easier to form, as the 20-year-old sailed across the line without so much as a look back, indicating a deal had probably been made.
Pogačar’s hard work saw him rewarded with not just another stage win, but also moving himself up to third on GC, displacing Miguel Ángel López (Astana). Now it’s a reality, the young Slovenian will be dreaming of holding on to his podium place by the time the peloton get to Madrid.
Roglič one step closer to sealing the overall victory
With the Hispanic trio formed of López and the Movistar duo of Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana looking to team up and challenge the Slovenian for the race lead, it looked like Roglič would have his work cut out. However, he found a willing collaborator and lieutenant in Tadej Pogačar, as the Slovenians took the race to comparable Grand Tour grandees.
After Tadej Pogačar attacked and only Roglič was able to hold his wheel, the pair managing the gradient better than their rivals as they both looked to put time into their GC rivals. Roglič handed the stage victory to his younger countryman as he focused solely on the red jersey and extracted valuable seconds on a stage where many assumed he would be tested.
With the number of tough mountain days decreasing, Roglič’s grip on the red jersey tightens and his form looks good. Following his disappointment with just a podium place at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the Jumbo-Visma rider looks set to claim his first Grand Tour win.
Another miserable day for Movistar
Looking to undo the damage of the disastrous stage 10 time trial, Quintana was the first to attack on the Los Machucos summit finish. The Colombian immediately distanced the GC group who maybe didn’t see a threat in a man three minutes down on the race lead. However, Quintana couldn’t last and was soon reeled back into the group of contenders while the Slovenian duo of Roglič and Pogačar then went up the road.
Movistar’s tactics once again seemed loose. After Pogačar attacked, Valverde was left in between the front Slovenian group and Quintana chasing behind. The world champion kept looking back to see Quintana fighting against the gradient a few bike lengths behind but only waited for the Colombian to ride up to him. Teamwork seems to still be at a premium in the Spanish squad.
The Movistar pair eventually finished on the same time, 27 seconds behind Pogačar and Roglič, with Valverde now sandwiched in between the pair in second on GC, with Roglič further away and Pogačar ominously closing in behind.
Quintana’s last Grand Tour of his eight season stint with Movistar looks to be closing with a whimper, after glimpses of the old Quintana returned on stage nine of the Vuelta as well as the Galibier stage of the Tour de France. The 29-year-old will be hoping his fortunes change when he moves to Arkéa-Samsic in 2020.
Miguel Ángel López falters after Astana’s hard work
The final climb seemed suited for López to take the race to Roglič, with the Colombian looking the most likely to challenge the Slovenian for the race lead, sitting only 2-11 behind him at the start of the stage.
Astana decided to put all of their eggs in the stage 13 basket, hitting the front and driving the pace, looking to make life difficult for the GC contenders and their teams.
However, after Quintana was reeled in after his failed attack, Pogačar and Roglič headed up the road and López was unable to hold their wheel. Bad turned to worse as Quintana made his way up to Valverde and they finished half a minute ahead of the Astana rider, with López finishing just more than a minute behind Roglič. The Colombian will now likely look to fight for a podium place, unless he finds something special to dent a dominant Roglič.
A day off then another decisive mountain stage
Stage 14 provides another stop-gap in the GC battle, with a flat stage this time presenting an opportunity for the sprinters, whereas breakaways claimed stages 11 and 12.
Three first category climbs followed by another first category climb for yet another summit finish on stage 15. If Roglič is going to be separated from the red jersey, this will be one of the final realistic chances for it to happen. Failing that, Pogačar, López and the rest will begin to scrap for podium places if the Jumbo-Visma rider’s lead is deemed unassailable.