“Vuelta mate? completed it!”
Not quite yet Remco. But week two of this years race sees the Belgian boy wonder on the edge of greatness having built a commanding lead during stages 4-10.
We left the race travelling from Breda in the Netherlands to Northern Spain on an early rest day with Jumbo passing the race leaders jersey around their riders, seemingly for fun.
Stage 4 with its medium mountains and reduced bunch sprint saw Primoz Roglic take both stage and jersey and that, we all assumed, was that.
The next day Jumbo let a break take a fair chunk of time and gifted the leaders role to Groupama-FDJ rider Rudy Mollard. He benefited from some selfless team work from Brit Jake Stewart on the road into Bilbao.
The stage was won by fiery Catalan Marc Soler. When he is on it he is unbeatable. When he isn’t he is slower than me*
Stage 6 was the first proper mountain summit finish and Jay Vine, as Aussie, was too strong for his breakaway companions emerging from the fog to take a memorable win.
Behind Remco Evenepoel accelerated away from the favourites group and gained enough time to depose Roglic.
Only Enric Mas of Spain was able to stay in contact and they became the riders to watch in this Vuelta.
In a race of breakaways there was an emotion home win for Cofidis rouleur Jesus Herrada into Cistierna the following day. A tearful interview for the home tv channels showing how much this one meant.
Vine then won again on the second mountain top finish keeping up a 100% win rate on summits in this years race! He was benefitting from being far enough behind in the overall classification that none of the big teams were too bothered to chase him. But he was clearly on their radar now and would not be gifted the chance to ride in a breakaway again by the looks of things.
Sunday’s showpiece stage to Nava was one for the ages. Up front big Belgian Jimmy Janssens was toiling up the final climb which was Flemish in its steepness, yet almost alpine in its length.
Louis Meintjes, a much more suitable tiny climber, was reeling him in, and did with just enough space to then drop him on the 24% gradients into the finish.
Behind them the GC battle detonated. Remco sensed weakness in Roglic and dropped him compressively on a corner so steep that the tv motorbikes were stalling.
Mas was next to suffer, dropping off the back wheel of the race leader centimetre by centimetre.
Remco was 3/4 of a minute clear of his rivals by the line despite a late charge by Primoz.
We went into the second rest day on Monday which would have usually been the natural break point in my race review.
However I couldn’t post until today so I am including the time trial of yesterday.
Not much to add on that other than Remco dominated again and added to his lead going into this hilly second phase of the race.
What happens next? I think we will see the likes of Roglic and Mas have to try longer range attacks to get time back. Mas doesn’t have a great reputation as an attacker, more a follower so it will be Jumbo that have to instigate.
Evenepoel looks really strong. But we keep hearing he is unproven over three weeks so it will be interesting to see how his team try and manage the race in the coming days to give him an easier ride.
It’s either going to be really exciting or a dull procession to the finish now! I know which I want to see.
|1||1||–||EVENEPOEL Remco||Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||20||6″||34:35:50|
|3||2||▼1||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||8″||3:03|
|4||4||–||RODRÍGUEZ Carlos||INEOS Grenadiers||3:55|
|5||6||▲1||YATES Simon||Team BikeExchange – Jayco||4:50|
|6||5||▼1||AYUSO Juan||UAE Team Emirates||4:53|
|7||7||–||ALMEIDA João||UAE Team Emirates||6:45|
|8||8||–||LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel||Astana Qazaqstan Team||6:50|
|9||10||▲1||SIVAKOV Pavel||INEOS Grenadiers||7:06|