Thomas De Gendt finally gets his way
After riding over 1280km in escape groups during the Tour de France, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) was perhaps wrongly omitted from winning the race’s combativity award. However, in this year’s Vuelta a España, De Gendt hasn’t changed tack and it’s finally paid off.
Prior to the Tour de France, De Gendt secured a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and the leader’s jersey through a successful long-range attack on the race’s first stage. Since then the Belgian rider, who is known for his tireless riding, has started to be seen as the ‘almost man’.
Whether it has been long-range attacks or breakaways, it started to feel like nothing would ever work for De Gendt but today he showed why he is always trying. After counter-attacking and bridging over to the front four riders, De Gendt’s voracious appetite saw him try and cover more attacks as he joined in Nicolas Roche’s last-ditch attempts.
The Belgian used his experience wisely as he waited until the final sprint to time his acceleration perfectly and make all those near misses worth it.
Chris Froome takes it easy for the Angliru
With the race’s most iconic climb the following day, it was smart of Chris Froome (Team Sky) to take a back seat in proceedings. After losing time on stage 17 and recovering somewhat on stage 18, it was imperative that Froome took no chances today as he prepares to cover any and all GC attacks on the Angliru.
Froome may even need to lay it out on the line if things go south and the preparations he and his team made today in controlling the tempo mean that he won’t be afraid to do just that.
The Vuelta is a race that has escaped Froome’s grasp on incredibly small margins before and for someone as meticulous as him, today will definitely be deemed a victory ahead of tomorrow.
Ivan Garcia can’t spare the Spanish blushes
Still yet to record a home victory, the Spanish are quickly running out of opportunities to spare the home fans blushes. Today the hopes of the majority of the Iberian peninsula lay on Ivan Garcia’s (Bahrain-Merida) shoulders as he had hoped of breaking the Spanish duck at La Vuelta.
The young time triallist decided to try and go it alone on the day’s final climb but his efforts were cut short as Nicolas Roche (BMC), Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) managed to bridge over to him. Soon his efforts were directed at trying to keep their breakaway from being caught.
However, a strong counter-attack saw his chances drop considerably as the break swelled in size. Taking his chances on the home straight, Garcia launched his attack. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be with a more experienced Thomas De Gendt timing his retort perfectly, coming around Garcia and crushing Spanish hearts as he took victory.
The breakaway wins again
This year’s Vuelta has been one of multiple breakaways and today was no different with a winner being plucked from an original 27-man escape
With an overall classification as tight as it is, many top teams like Sky and Bahrain-Merida are concentrating their efforts on each other so when there is no sprint team to take the slack we are presented with a style of racing that allows breakaway artists like Thomas De Gendt off the leash.
Today’s stage was like a Classics race, akin to that of Milan-San Remo, with a multitude of attacks into the final kilometres. It was an exciting display of how great Grand Tours can be while working to serve a special prelude to the Angliru on stage 20.
Can Contador make it a dream end?
With less than 20km to go on stage 19, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) did what Alberto Contador does. He attacked when no one expected it. Showing good legs, El Pistolero and team-mate Edward Theuns made a break for it to gain some precious seconds on Froome and co.
The attack was solid and the pair worked well and for a time you could wonder if Contador might shake things up. Unfortunately, the peloton worked just as well and caught the pair 2km from the line.
With compatriot Ivan Garcia failing to take the first Spanish win at this year’s Vuelta, it begs the question: Could it be up to one of Spain’s most iconic racers on his penultimate stage to bring home the first victory of this year’s Vuelta on what is Spain’s most iconic climb? Possibly.
Contador started off this race by falling out of the GC race almost immediately but like a true maverick he has worked his way back into proceedings. While he may not take the overall there is a good chance that he could make a lot of cycling fans’ dreams come true with a win on stage 20.