What has been an exciting first week of the Vuelta a España 2019, with great racing and race incidents a plently, climaxed on stage nine, the final stage before the first rest day.
As Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) rode to his first Grand Tour stage victory, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) stormed into the race lead with a devastating attack.
His rivals will now have the rest day to stew, recover and prepare for two more gruelling weeks in Spain.
On stage nine, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) rode to an impressive third place and limited his losses ahead of stage ten’s time trial, where he is expected to take seconds out of opponents, while Miguel Ángel López faltered and lost time.
Despite their contrasting fortunes, the similarity binding both riders is that they both took a fall on the gravel section in the closing uphill kilometres of stage ten.
Roglič, who appears to not have suffered any injuries, fought hard to chase back on to his group over a number of kilometres. He fell because a motorbike stopped in the middle of the road after a bend. Miraculously, he eventually only lost 25 seconds to Quintana.
Jumbo-Visma team leader Addy Engels chastised the moto for the incident, but said that ultimately the team will draw a line under the incident.
“It was very chaotic at one point. Not only because of the gravel strip, but also because of the bad weather. Primož fell on the gravel section due to a stationary motorbike. That is not okay and should not happen. All in all, I think that, given the situation at that point, we have done a good job. We are in good shape. Although we will never know what else would have been possible without that fall.”
López, however, was not as fortunate, also coming down in the gravel section after apparently clipping wheels with Sergio Higuita (EF Education First).
The Colombian crossed the finish line 38 seconds down on Quintana, his injuries visible.
Speaking after the stage, López explained his crash: “It wasn’t anything special. We entered the gravel section with a lead of about 30 seconds and unfortunately the bike slipped and I crashed on a corner.
“My legs were good, we wanted to do great things. In the end, we’ve lost some seconds but not too many. We’re going to fight with what’s left of the Vuelta, and there’s quite a lot ahead. What’s important is that the team is going well, we’re motivated.”