Stage 17 of the 2019 Vuelta a España was held at such a pace that the TV coverage had to be brought forward by half an hour to make sure viewers could actually see some of the action before its end.
The huge 40+ rider breakaway group that escaped from the drop of the flag on the 219.6km stage set off at a frightening pace in the crosswinds, with a tailwind in the later part of the stage ensuring that the speed would last to the line.
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Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was the man to cross the finish line first, taking victory in just 4-20-15, with an astonishing average speed of 50.63kmh.
That average speed is the fastest ever officially recorded for a professional race over 200km, handing Gilbert the lesser mentioned Ruban Jaune prize.
The Ruban Jaune is a prize created by Tour de France organiser Henri Desgrange in 1936 for the highest speed for a race exceeding 200km. It supposedly takes inspiration from the Blue Riband, a prize for the fastest passenger liner across the Atlantic Ocean.
Matteo Trentin, another former Quick-Step rider, is the last holder of the record. The Italian took the prize after winning the 231km Paris-Tours in 2015 in a time of 4-39-12 (average speed of 49.64kmh).
In fact, of the 13 times the Ruban Jaune has been awarded since 1936 this is only the fourth time the award has gone to a race other than Paris-Tours. Other races that have been the setting for the record include Paris-Roubaix twice in 1948 and and 1964, and Paris-Brussels in 1975. That also means that Gilbert’s Vuelta win is the first time the Ruban Jaune has been set outside of a one-day race.
There are some rumblings that the Ruban Jaune might only apply to one-day races (probably just because it’s never happened in a Grand Tour before). But with even Trentin conceding the award we’re happy to see it go to Gilbert, whose record is going to take some beating – even at Paris-Tours.