We left the Vuelta at the week 1 rest day with Primoz Roglic in the leaders red jersey and a situation that felt pretty similar to the Tour de France.
This Slovenian looked home and dry as the chinks in the armour of Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal were starting to show.
But our Primoz had been burned a number of times in stage races, especially when it came to conceding the lead in the latter stages of big races (2021 Tour, 2022 Paris Nice etc.) so he reduced the level of pressure on his Jumbo Visma team and allowed a break to go clear containing Odd Christian Eiking who was still far enough away at the finish to take the race lead.
He didn’t win the stage, in-form DSM rider Michael Storer did, but this ensured that there would be a number of riders and teams now interested in keeping order and calm at the head of the race.
And as with the other grand tours of the year, once the peloton had settled, breakaways started to get bigger time gaps and stay away.
There were memorable stage wins for Magnus Cort (multiple), Romain Bardet and Rafal Majka.
Eiking retained the lead thanks to the composition of those breakaways not having a rival for his jersey, but it always felt on loan to Roglic. And so it was.
It took the fearsome climb to Lagos de Covadonga to shake the Norwegian off, but it was definitive.
The best day of the race saw Bernal give it an all or nothing attack which Roglic was equal to. When the time came the Columbian was dispatched and no other riders could get within a minute and a half of the defending champion who took the jersey back, and for good.
Movistar showed their incredible ability to mess something up with two riders in the top three going into the penultimate day of the race.
But as Bernal faded, Miguel Angel Lopez, a stage winner two days before, got stuck in a group with him losing his podium place in the process (on the road).
As the time gap drifted over seven minutes Lopez abandoned with less than 100km of the race to go. A sad end to a Vuelta that had started to look like it would end on a high for him, but ended in a team car.
The stage was won by an opportunist in the breakaway (which is so 2021!!!) Clement Champoussin who bagged a third stage win for France. In contrast Spain won zero.
Roglic secured the final days time trial, although the incredible Cort tried to take that off him, ending up with close to a five minute gap on Enric Mas who was the best of the rest and the best of Spain.
An honourable mention to Jack Haig who came third after coming under intense pressure from Adam Yates on the final mountain of the race. He suffered terribly and was dropped many times but came back each and every one.
I wouldn’t say this Vuelta was that interesting in terms of a GC battle. But that was the case in the Tour and to a lesser extent Giro.
What has made this year so special has been the baroudeur spirit of breakaways and their ability to time their run to the line just right and hang on for valuable stage wins.
It started in Italy with Taco Van der Hoorn and carried on here with Corts stage wins being evolutions of that tactic. It’s made a number of key stages in grand tours like one day classics and that is 100% no bad thing.
For now we move on to the Worlds and the end of season classic campaigns, so there is still plenty to get excited about and enjoy.
See you on the road!