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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 15, 2019

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Vuelta a España stage 20 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the race results.

Here's the report from stage winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates’ king of the climbs, Tadej Pogačar, blew away the competition in the mountains today to take his third stage win at La Vuelta and in doing so not only secured a place on the podium in Madrid, but claimed the coveted white jersey as the best young rider in the race.

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar wins stage 20.

Pogačar went into stage 20 in 5th position in the GC and needed to do something special to move up the rankings. With 38kms to go, as the main contenders rode the penultimate climb of the day, the 20-year-old Slovenian did just that – attacking with such ferocity that none of his rivals could respond. It was a courageous move by the youngest rider in the race, and it paid dividends, as he soloed away to the line in what will go down in the history books as a masterclass in Grand Tour bike racing.

On his unbelievable win Pogačar said: “I started the race with good legs, but didn’t feel as good mentally. But then I began to notice that everyone else was struggling in the cold and rain and I started to feel better. When we had about 5kms left of the penultimate climb, I knew there was a head wind, so I wasn’t initially sure if I should go. But after watching lots of other failed attacks I could tell my rivals weren’t feeling that good. I put in a strong acceleration and no one could follow, then I was able to go full gas and maintain my lead until the finish line. I never imagined I would be in this position three weeks ago. It feels incredible.”

The win, which came after more than five hours in the saddle from Arenas de San Pedro to Plataforma de Gredos, is Pogačar ’s 8th victory this season and takes UAE Team Emirates’ tally to 26 – the most the Emirati formation has achieved since its inception in 2017. Pogačar also became one of only three riders under the age of 21 to ever take a hattrick of stages in one Grand Tour, one of the others being Giuseppe Saronni who currently works with UAE Team Emirates as an advisor.

Tomorrow Pogačar will ride the final stage of the three week race through the streets of Madrid, a traditional procession in which the GC riders will not attack – leaving it for the sprinters to contest in the final kilometres. As long as Pogačar is able to avoid incident or injury he will find himself stood on the podium in third place behind World Champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and race winner Primoz Roglic (JumboVisma). The achievement is a career defining moment for any rider, but made all the more astonishing as this is Pogacar’s first season in the WorldTour and his first ever three week race.

Here's the report from second-place Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar:

42 years after Freddy Maertens beating the record of stage victories in the same edition of La Vuelta by claiming 13 wins and the overall classification, a rainbow jersey will be on the podium of the Spanish Grand Tour. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is all but certain to step onto Sunday’s Cibeles scene after a brave effort to retain his 2nd spot overall, only behind race dominator Primoz Roglic (TJV), following an extremely hard stage 20, 190km from Arenas de San Pedro to the Plataforma de Gredos (Cat-3).

Stage 20 profile

The profile of the very challenging stage 20.

The Telefónica-backed squad had to face, following a race full of attacks under soaking rain, a powerful move from Tadej Pogacar (UAD), who attacked halfway through the main climb of the day, Peña Negra (Cat-1). The 20-year-old’s unstoppable effort of nearly fifty kilometers saw him claiming the stage win ahead of Valverde, supported until the foot of the Plataforma by a magnificent Marc Soler and Antonio Pedrero.

While Valverde was able to secure his second spot, Nairo Quintana slipped down to fourth -yet not out of the final podium, as the Movistar Team will be together in full at Cibeles’ scene with their team GC victory- as he struggled near the end and concede 1’56” against Pogacar, just under half a minute behind his team-mate.

OVERVIEW / REACTION from Alejandro Valverde:
“I’m really satisfied with this Vuelta. I didn’t even dare to dream about a second place overall before the start of the race; maybe just about winning a stage, but never to get onto the podium. It was a difficult finale for me, because of the hard slopes, the weather and also because I didn’t have any time references in the end. The rainy conditions sort of broke my radio, I couldn’t hear it loud, and when I tried to fix it I might have changed the channel I was using and couldn’t hear anything, so I didn’t have any time gaps.

“Thanks to our team, which did a phenomenal effort, I only had to go ‘full gas’ on the slopes near the finish to keep that second place. The fans on the road were yelling to me Pogacar was about two minutes ahead, they told me I had to push hard, and so after I heard that and after those bonus seconds in the sprint my goal was limiting those losses.

“I wasn’t really feeling calm into that final pursuit. However, Pedrero and Soler gave everything to keep Pogacar as close as possible and my job only started at the final climb. Astana launched some attacks, but they never kept a steady pace nor helped us, despite the fact that they were losing all prizes they had. But it’s normal – everyone does its own race.

“I think I’ll be in good condition at the World Championships. We’ll have a very strong team, we’re getting together in Alicante next week and so I hope to enjoy some good days with my team-mates before travelling to Yorkshire. We’ve got to be realistic: it will be more of an open race, and our chances will be smaller than in Austria.”

Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

The penultimate stage of La Vuelta was the last chance for the GC contenders to make up some positions on the overall, so for Rafał Majka. Stage 20 was another tough stage the riders had to face, 190 demanding kilometers from Arenas de San Pedro up to Plataforma de Gredos. Right after the start a category one climb awaited the peloton before heading onto five other categorized climbs, two category two, two category three and another category one.

Like yesterday the battle for the day’s break started right after the start. After some kilometers of racing nine riders established the breakaway and had an advantage of around two minutes. But the peloton held them on a short leash and kept the pace high on the second climb of the day. BORA - hansgrohe remained in the pack, supporting their GC contender Rafał Majka.

The race was always nervous especially as the GC contenders tried to distance themselves from the first bigger group on the penultimate ascent of the day. At the front of the race, two leaders had a tight gap over the chasers. The favorites for the stage and overall win played cat and mouse by launching several attacks but it all came down to the final kilometers and the last ascent of the day. Once again T. Pogacar launched an attack before the final climb and was able to hold his gap until the line, to take his third stage win here at La Vuelta.

Behind, the big showdown took place as Rafał Majka, A. Valverde and P. Roglic went on the attack to fight for the podium spots on today’s stage. The BORA – hansgrohe climber fought hard until the line and finished in a fantastic third place. Despite his tremendous effort today and over the whole three weeks, he couldn’t move up on the overall. He will arrive in sixth overall in Madrid tomorrow.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka finishing stage 18. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"I wanted to win today’s stage to pay back the team’s absolutely great work over the whole three weeks. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. However, the team was once again amazing. Pawel and Felix stayed with me until the finale and did a stellar job. Tomorrow we will help Sam to achieve another good result and afterwards we will enjoy some time off the bike.” – Rafał Majka

“The last mountain stage is done and dusted. I think, the guys showed a strong performance. Pawel and Felix stayed with Rafał as long as possible and helped him to stay with the other favorites. On the final climb he attacked with Valverde and Roglic and finished in a great third place. Of course, a victory would have been nice, but a podium result on such a tough stage with those opponents is also something we can be proud of. Now we are traveling to Madrid for the final showdown of this year’s Vuelta and hopefully we can finish it off with another great result.” - Patxi Vila, Sports Director

And here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

With only the final stage in Madrid ahead, Primoz Roglic still tops the GC of the Vuelta a España. Thanks to his teammates, Team Jumbo-Visma's Slovenian did not see his leading position on the mountain stage put in danger.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic goes into the final stage with a solid 2 minute 33 second lead.

The Madrid stage is normally a parade that ends in a sprint festival. If the Slovenian gets through the day well, he wins the first grand tour of his career. It would also be the first grand tour win for Team Jumbo-Visma since the Rabobank era.

"It was a tough day in the mountains," the relieved classification leader said. “Today, like the last few days, we have shown that we are a strong team. From the start we were well positioned and sharp. Everyone did an excellent job. In the end I felt good enough to stay with the best. There is one more day to go, but fortunately there are no mountains in tomorrow’s stage!”

“After the Giro, it was not difficult to motivate myself for this race. I want to compete for the win in every race I start. I have prepared as well as possible for this Vuelta. It has been three tough weeks and I am glad it’s coming to an end. There was not one key moment this Vuelta, but there were several. Something happened in every stage, even in the relatively flat stages. Tomorrow I have to cross the line in Madrid and then it'll be time to enjoy it."

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