Mieke Kröger (Germany/Team Virtu Cycling) has won the 2019 Lotto Belgium Tour beating Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies) by a mere eight seconds.
Photography : Allan Stone 2019
Going into the stage with a lead of 26″ on GC The 27 year old German finished 26″ down in 19th spot behind stage winner Coryn Rivera (USA/Team Sunweb) and had to dig deep on the pave finish to ensure she restricted losses to her closest rival Kopecky to a minimum. As it was it was a close run thing losing 18 seconds of that overnight lead to the Belgian. Third spot went to France’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France/Trek-Segafredo Women) at 14″ with Rivera a distant fourth at 2’33”.
Mathieu van der Poel wins the Tour of Britain after taking final stage in Manchester
Riding for the Belgian Pro-Continental team Corendon – Circus (PCT) Mathieu van der Poel dominated the rankings with three stage victories en route to winning the eight stage Tour of Britain by a margin of 17 seconds from Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) with Jasper de Buyst (Lotto Soudal).
Toledo, Friday, September 13th 2019 – A flat stage on the way to Toledo offered more craziness at La Vuelta 19. While rain swept through the area causing pile-ups Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) stormed to an impressive solo win after dropping all his breakaway companions with 25km to go. This is the first Grand Tour stage victory for “the TGV from Clermont-Ferrand” .
Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) retains La Roja despite several scares. The race leader was involved in a crash that also saw Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team) hit the deck with 67km to go. After remounting Roglič and the others involved had to chase their way back to the peloton. A litel while later Roglič had to do the same after Bora-hansgrohe split the bunch in the wind. The efforts clealr took their toll and the Slovenian lost three seconds to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) in the uphill sprint.
While the crash was no doubt caused by the inclement weather there were harsh words directed by riders at Movistar who seemingly rode on at pace forcing Roglic and company to ride hard to catch-up despite an unwritten rule that the race leader shouldn’t be taken advantage of if they suffer a mishap.
The crash also deprived Roglič of his road captain Tony Martin ahead of the crucial stage in the Sierra de Gredos.
Stage 19 Video Summary (courtesy of La Vuelta)
Miguel Angel Lopez spoke about the day’s events and summarised riders sentiments:
“I am more or less OK after my crash. Many riders crashed in front of me and I had no any chance to avoid it. I have some abrasions on my hand and right leg, but in general, everything is good. Fortunately, I have a very strong team in this race and my teammates did a perfect job to bring me back in front.
“Indeed, we had to spend a lot of energy to reach the first group as Movistar pulled hard in front after that crash. Of course, nobody was happy with that, I’d like to see more respect in the peloton. But all we could do, just to give our best to come back. In the end of the day I am still fourth in the general classification and still have the white jersey on my shoulders. I hope to recover as well as possible after the crash, because tomorrow will be the last important stage of La Vuelta. We will try to do our best“
Stage 18: Colmenar Viejo to Becerril de la Sierra, 178.2km
Higuita takes solo win on brutal stage
Grand Tour Debutant, Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) took his first stage with a solo win, while Roglic kept rivals at bay with a show of power.
The 22 year old added another win to Columbia’s 2019 palmares after beating a chasing trio of top-ten riders race, leader Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Rafał Majka (BORA – hansgrohe), by a full fifteen seconds.
Video race Summary (Courtesy of La Vuelta)
Sergio Higuita (EF Education First):
“Yesterday, when I didn’t have the legs to be in the echelons and fight for the top10 of the GC, we decided to save energy for today and to relax as much as possible, as if it were a recovery ride. It was great for me, as I was feeling really tired before the stage – I even fell asleep on the bus! This helped me relieve some pressure off me and take the start today with renewed energies. Today’s stage was perfect for me: I could either win from a breakaway or from a sprint. Climbing Cotos I felt extraordinary good legs, and I was able to keep my chasers at bay.
“I went full gas to the finish line, as I was pretty motivated to give my team a stage win after such a difficult La Vuelta. I didn’t have any energy left, but I had my heart set on those dreams I’ve chased for so long. I didn’t assume victory was mine until 5 kilometres to go, as my chasers were quite strong and I was afraid they would catch me. My DS kept spurring me, and insisted I could make it to the finish line. I was very emotional at the finish line because there were so many Colombian fans there. At La Vuelta 19, I’ve learnt not to give up, not even in the worse moments, and to be resilient. Every day is whole different story on which one can triumph.”
The win gilded a series of strong performances by Higuita through 2019 including a second place on GC at 2019 Amgen Tour of California (2.UWT) and fourth on GC at 2019 Tour de Pologne (2.UWT). It also rescued a disastrous Vuelta for EF Education First after losing GC contender Rigoberto Urán to a major crash on Stage 6. The youngster now lies 14th on GC.
Gilbert awarded ‘Ruban Jaune‘ after breaking stage speed record to win Stage 17
Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck – Quick Step) defied hot windy conditions to win Stage 17 and set a new speed record for a stage longer than 200km – 50.63km/h.
The 37 year old Belgian was part of a large breakaway that at one point numbered 48 riders, that turned much of the GC on its head after finishing over five minutes head of a race leader Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) and seeing Nairo Quintana leap into second spot ahead of teammate Alejandro Valverde.
The break which from its initial unwieldly size settled to around 28 riders and despite windy hot conditions and the presence of several GC contenders including Nairo Quintana (Movistar) grew its lead until it was over six minutes.
Deceuninck – Quick Step, with seven of its eight riders dominating the engine room, had two dogs in the fight, Gilbert for the stage and James Knox for the GC. Quintana was a clear beneficiary and as the lead crept above four and half minutes he was looking at leaping from sixth spot to second overall over-taking teammate Alejandro Valverde who was isolated in the changing red Jersey group and juggling divided loyalties. He could not preserve his overnight second spot without sacrificing the team’s chance of assailing Roglic.
As Quintana edge closer on the virtual GC to Roglič Team Jumbo-Visma and Astana buried themselves to male the catch, but while the lead did ease it lodged at around five minutes as the race rocketed at full gas in both groups and a stalemate became clear – there would be massive time losses, but how much?
As the leaders entered the shaded streets of Guadalajara the attacks came thick and fast. Zdeněk Štybar (DQT) was first, followed by Sam Bennett (BORA – hansgrohe). The Irishman could not mimic his win in Oviedo on Stage 14 and it was Gilbert who shot past to win.
Philippe Gilbert: “It’s a very special one. I think it’s a stage that will stay in the history books because of the way we rode. It was crazy from the gun. We went with a big group of 40 guys. There were some guys for GC like Quintana and James Knox for ourselves. We were 7 of the 8 Deceuninck guys and we rode crazy as a team, we gave morale to each other and it was incredible to see. As the kilometres passed, we lost some guys with the crosswinds, the climbs… It was really fast. At some point we were doing 75km/h on the flat. I had a 54×11 and I was spinning all the time. In 17 years as a pro, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. It was really really crazy. The crosswinds and echelons are part of the team’s DNA and I also love it. It’s not the first time I win two stages in a Grand Tour but I’ve never done it three times. Friday’s stage suits me and I’ll try to fight for victory in Toledo.”
The result gave the GC a new complexion. Roglič still leads but saw his margin shaved by 24 second and second spot occupied by Quintana at 2’24”. Valverde dropped to third, pushing Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) off the virtual podium) into fourth while James Knox slipped into the top ten at eight spot.
Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was sanguine about the day’s events: “It was a hard day. I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have where I was, I should have been in the front. The team saved me with a big effort. They just went full gas from the very beginning and that was it for the rest of the day. We can see our team did a really big effort from the beginning. In the end, we couldn’t anymore so other teams had to work also. We’re still in a really good position. It was a hard day for everyone. We lost a battle today, but not the war. I never felt like La Vuelta was lost. Other guys wanted to finish as fast as possible so it was full gas until the finish line. We’ll see in Madrid but things are still looking really good for us. La Vuelta is really unpredictable and we can expect still big fight for the days to come.”
The ‘Ruban Jaune’
The Ruban Jaune was inaugurated by the great cycling innovator Henri Desgrange to mirror the trans-atlantic Blue Riband, and be awarded to the fastest time over a race distance of 200km or more. It was first awarded in 1936 to Belgian cyclist Gustave Danneels, who covered 251 kilometers in the Paris-Tours at an average of 41.455 kilometers per hour.
The record has subsequently changed hands 12 times with the last holder being Matteo Trentin, another former Quick-Step rider who took the prize after winning the 231km Paris-Tours in 2015 in a time of 4h 39’12”, an average speed of 49.64kmh.
Gilbert’s record not is the forst above 50km/h, but also the first time the record has gone to a winner in a stage race, the previous awards going exclusively to winners of one-day races, nine of which were at Paris-Tours, two at Paris-Roubaix and one at Paris-Brussels.
Trentin was quick to congratulate Gilbert on the record:
Stage 16: Pravia to Alto de La Cubilla. Lena , 144.4km
Fuglsang hits the high notes with solo mountain top win
Jacob Fuglsang gave Astana its second stage win with a solo effort on the 1700m Alto de La Cubilla.
Fuglsang was part of the 21-man break that managed to get away after more than 50km of hard racing. Proving a strong return to form after a disappointing early summer campaign he dropped all his companions on the Alto de la Cubilla, a climb making its Vuelta debut, to claim the solo win 22″ ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos), with teammate Luis León Sánchez taking third at 40″, just ahead of James Knox (Deceuninck – Quick Step).
Astana leader Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) lying fourth on GC also went on the attack attempting to close in on third placed Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) but while both Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) lost time both Pogačar and race leader Primoz Roglic held firm.
Fuglsang explained how much the stage meant, “It feels great. To win a stage was one of my goals coming here as well as helping the team and building my shape for the last part of the season. But one thing is to have a goal, another thing is to achieve it. I’m super happy with this win. From the morning the plan was to have me and Luis [Leon Sanchez] at the front, to go in the hunt for the stage victory. With two guys in the breakaway, we could try to win the stage and if it didn’t work out, we had people up the road to help Miguel [Angel Lopez] in the final climb. And the plan worked out. It’s been my best season ever. I am super happy that I can continue to show it was not a good spring; that I had consistency to come back after a setback in the Tour de France. To win my first Grand Tour stage is really special.”
Stage 11: Saint-Palais to Urdax-Dantxarinea, 180km
Itturia basks in glory with solo stage win
Urdax-Dantxarinea, Wednesday, September 4th 2019 – Mikel Iturria (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias) gave the local fans everything to cheer about as he took his first professional win with a brilliant ride to Urdax on stage 11 of La Vuelta 19.
Just a few kilometres away from his home, the Basque rider featured in the 14-man breakaway that animated the day. He soloed away from his companions in the last 25 kilometres and a massive effort saw him hold on to a 6” lead on the line.
The result didn’t affect the top of the GC with Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) arriving safely in the main bunch, 18’35” behind the winner, to retain La Roja on the eve of a tricky stage to Bilbao.
Pau, Tuesday, September 3rd 2019 – Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) delivered a performance that overwhelmed his opponents in the individual time-trial from Jurançon to Pau (36.2km) to claim both the stage win and the leader’s red jersey after 10 days of racing at La Vuelta 19.
The Slovenian took the 36.2km hilly ITT in 47:05 and opened significant gaps over his rivals. Second spot went to Kiwi Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) at 25″ with Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick Step) in third.
The only member of the top 10 on GC to put in a convincing performance was Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) who placed ninth a full 1’27” down. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) moved into second on GC, but after finishng 13th on the stage trails Roglic by 1’52”. Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team) retained his third spot despite finsing 14th, 2′ down however it was Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), who was leading the race before this time-trial, that suffered the most sliding to fourth on GC, a mammoth 3’ down.
Roglič is only the second Slovenian rider to wear La Roja in La Vuelta history. The first was Janez Brajkovič who took red after Astana won the Stage 1 TTT in 2013.
Stage 9: Andorra la Vella to Cortals d’Encamp, 94.4km
Young gun Pogačar rides the storm to take solo win, Quintana takes Red
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) bests both mountains and weather to take a first Grand Tour stage with a solo win in Cortals d’Encamp. A second place gives Nairo Quintana the race lead for the first time since 2016.
Cortals d’Encamp, Sunday, September 1st 2019 – The 20 year-old Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) claimed a spectacular stage win in Cortals d’Encamp after a short fast but action-packed day of racing.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) finished second to claim La Roja, 6” ahead of Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma). The Colombian climber leads La Vuelta for the first time since his overall victory in 2016.
The early action on a stage comprising five categorised climbs, featured a substantial breakaway by some 30 riders. A feature rider was Team Ineos’ Tao Geoghegan Hart who attacked form the outset and then did sporadically during the stage right up to the final climb to Cortals d’Encamp. He was overhauled by the main contenders, including Marc Soler (Movistar) Ben O’Connor (TDD), Geoffroy Bouchard (ALM) and Pogačar.
The terrain was already pushing the limits of the riders but a thunderstorm on a section of gravel road brought rain and hail made the race even more brutal, leading to crashes for Lopez and Primoz Roglic (TJV).
The stage and race lead were up for grabs after overnight leader Nicolas Edet (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) destined to lose over six minutes after being dropped at the halfway mark, and it Soler who was striking out for a stage win. An attack by Quintana saw team ambitions take over and Soler was forced to stop three kilometres from the summit pull for the Columbian and sacrifice his chance at stage glory.
Pogačar had no such conflict and reiterating the statements he had made with wins at the 2018 Tour de L’Avenir and 2019 Tour of California he struck out to win by a full 23″ over Quintana with Roglič third at 48″.
Nairo Quintana was sanguine over the chances of retaining his newly won jersey: “A very tough stage, where we always tried to ride on the attack to gain an edge on Roglic. I’m really thankful about what Marc Soler did there in the finish, as well as with all other team-mates. We always said we would be going day-by-day, seeing what Alejandro and I could do, supporting whoever is doing best, and the team has been protecting us both so far and we’ve been working together to take this jersey. There’s still a long way to go in this Vuelta. Roglic still has an advantage, considering the TT on Tuesday. We would have to make a big, big effort in the time trial not to lose the jersey, which is what will probably happen, but once we’re over it and together with the team, we will keep making efforts to take the jersey back and hopefully keep it until the end.”