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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 2, 2019

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Vuelta a España stage nine team reports

Stage winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates sent me this report:

20-year-old Tadej Pogačar put in the ride of his life on stage 9 at the Vuelta a Espana today, to take the win for UAE Team Emirates in his first ever Grand Tour, during his first ever season on the World Tour.

Tadeg Pogacar

Tadej Pogačar enjoys his stage win. Sirotti photo

Despite being the youngest rider in the race Pogačar was able to outwit and outclimb some of the most experienced and decorated professional cyclists in the world, including World Champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who came 4th, race favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) who finished 3rd and the current Green Jersey, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who finished 2nd.

His explosive attack in the final part of the race also helped him jump up the GC standings to 5th place where he now sits just 1:42” behind Quintana who leads in the overall classification. The moment marked the sixth Grand Tour stage victory for UAE Team Emirates in just three years – two of which have now been claimed at La Vuelta – making this an historic day for the Emirati formation.

Today’s stage was billed as one of the toughest of the tour; a short and punchy 94.4km route from Andorra la Vella to Cortals d’Encamp. However, what the route lacked in distance, it made up for in vertical meters- featuring no less than five categorized climbs. It was on the fifth and final climb to the summit finish that the fireworks began. Pogacar was tucked in with a select group of GC favourites as they paced back the breakaway riders on a mountain with severe gradients. With 20kms to the weather came in, bringing with it rain and hail of biblical proportions. Despite the conditions, the Slovenian youngster continued to grind up the ramps, surrounded by cycling royalty. Then with 3kms to go, as the front group began to splinter, Pogačar opened up his throttle and rode the Movistar duo of Nairo Quintana and Marc Soler off his wheel, soloing to victory on one of the most punishing climbs in this year’s Vuelta.

On winning the stage, Pogačar commented: “It has been an incredible stage; it was very demanding from the start. Yesterday, when I saw the weather forecast for today, and I read that it would be rainy, I was actually happy because I knew I had it in me to do something special. I gave it everything on the gravel sector, and even after that effort I felt strong right up until the finish line. I know that I beat some of the best riders, but today’s stage wasn’t very straightforward. We had to contend with gravel and also a hailstorm, so it’s understandable that some riders would have had difficulties.”

Tomorrow, Pogačar and the rest of UAE Team Emirates, will get a well-deserved rest day as they recharge their batteries ahead of stage 10- where a 36.2km Individual Time Trial from Jurancon to Pau awaits.

Here's the report from new Vuelta GC leader Nairo Quintana's Team Movistar:

A series of results almost impossible to beat at the end of the first half of the 2019 Vuelta a España for the Movistar Team. The Telefónica-backed squad will enjoy on Monday’ rest day in France a well-deserved leader’s jersey, on the shoulders of Nairo Quintana, following a tough mountain stage nine in Andorra -94km with five rated ascents- which cold weather and hailstorm made even harder for all riders.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana celebrating his ownership of the red jersey.

Marc Soler and Antonio Pedrero entered an early break of more than thirty riders, whose survivors, led by Marc himself, Ben O’Connor (TDD) and Geoffroy Bouchard (ALM), reached the penultimate climb, Engolàsters, ahead of the main contenders. Before that climb, the Movistar Team set an intense pace with Erviti, Oliveira, Arcas and Rojas, which Astana kept to set up an attack by Miguel Ángel López, who built a gap over 30″ against the other race contenders. Instead of pulling for Primoz Roglic (TJV), Valverde and Quintana made big efforts to make the Slovenian and his team-mates suffer with several attacks. And at the gravel road sector after Engolàsters, and once both have attacked together, the successive crashes by Roglic and López left both ahead while Soler sought for a solo stage win.

Another attack by Quintana at Els Cortals d’Encamp (Cat-1) forced Soler to pull for him and renounce to his chances of a victory eventually claimed by Tadej Pogacar (UAD), with Nairo in 2nd place; Roglic (TJV), author of a big final progression, in 3rd, and Valverde -alongside the Slovenian- and Soler, 4th and 5th respectively and ahead of López. The GC now sees the four main contenders just 20″ apart -Nairo in the lead, Valverde in 4th- while Pogacar sits in fifth, 1’42” down, before Tuesday crucial 36km ITT to Pau.

Nairo Quintana: “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.”

Alejandro Valverde: “All in all, a very good day for us, despite everything we had to endure, especially with the cold. We tried to give our best and attack to gain those margins we sought for, especially against Roglic, and this is a good result. We’re still up there in the GC, the two of us, with Nairo in the lead and myself right behind the other contenders. Let’s keep pushing. It will be a different race after the time trial, with lots of climbs where we’ll need to give our best. Both Roglic and ‘Superman’ are really strong at the moment.”

Here's the report from GC second-place Primoz Roglic's Jumbo Visma team:

Primoz Roglic has done some good business in the overall classification in the ninth stage of the Vuelta a España. The Slovenian leader of Team Jumbo-Visma crashed unluckily, but managed to fight back to third place on the Cortals d'Encamp in Andorra. In the overall standings, Roglic moved up to second place. He is six seconds behind Nairo Quintana who has taken the overall lead.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic finishes with Alejandro Valverde. Sirotti photo

In the short but tough Pyrénées stage around Andorra, a large leading group attacked from the start. Robert Gesink, Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless were part of the breakaway on behalf of Team Jumbo-Visma. Behind, it was not until the Coll de la Gallina before we got to see some action among the GC favourites. Roglic was attacked by Lopez, Quintana and Valverde from all sides, but the Slovenian always managed to limit his loss with the help of George Bennett, and later also by Powless, Gesink and Kuss, who dropped back from the break to help their team leader. On the gravel section, about seven kilometres before the finish, Roglic crashed due to a motorbike, which was positioned in the middle of the road after a bend. The Slovenian was able to continue on his way and it only took him a few kilometres to rejoin his rivals again. In the end he only had to give away twenty-five seconds to Quintana.

Sports director Addy Engels can live - given the circumstances - with the result. “It was very chaotic at one point. Not only because of the gravel, but also because of the bad weather conditions. Primoz crashed on the gravel due to a stationary motorbike. That is not okay and should not happen. All in all I think that, given the situation at one point, we have done some good business GC-wise. We are in a good position before Tuesday's time trial. Although we will never know what would have been possible without that crash.”

Engels continues: “The team has done a very good stage and was very strong. Primoz always had support until the final climb. With Robert, Sepp and Neilson in the leading group, the situation was ideal for us and we could use them if necessary. And it was necessary. They really did well so that Primoz could save his effort until the final climb."

Sepp Kuss was the last to assist Roglic on the final climb. “It was a tough stage and it had everything in it. Especially the bad weather at the end made it very challenging,” the American said. “We were doing really well with three guys in the leading group. It’s better to send people ahead than to chase from behind. After all, you never know what happens behind. In the end it was a matter of communicating well. It is a pity about the incident with the motorbike. Luckily we were able to limit the time loss."

And here's the Vuelta report from Rafal Majka's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The last stage ahead of a well-deserved rest day was short, but it was also an intense one. The riders had to tackle only 94 kilometres but with four categorized climbs and a summit finish on the Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp on 2.095 metres, today’s stage was far from easy. Already after 17 kilometres, the first category one climb awaited the riders followed by an ascent of an HC-category and two category two climbs. 

After some kilometres a group of several riders made the day’s break, among them Felix Großschartner. While the break extended their lead to over four minutes on the first two climbs of the day, in the group of favourites all was set up for a true GC battle.

Team Astana drove the pace to prepare an attack of A. Lopez and the bunch was already heavily reduced when the young Colombian made his move at the foot of the final climb of the day. At this stage of the race Rafal Majka was able to stay with Valverde and Roglic. While at the front the early break fell apart, Felix waited for his leader, to support Rafal as long as possible. When heavy rain and even hail took its toll from the riders on the last kilometres, T. Pogacar and N. Quintana were able to overtake all of the breakaway riders, as Rafal Majka struggled to keep up with the pace of the other favourites.

Still, Rafal Majka was able to find a good rhythm to limit any time losses, while at the front Pogacar made the decisive move. In the end the young Slovenian took an impressive win, with Rafal Majka crossing the line in 13th place around two minutes later and still ranks in 8th place on the overall.

From the Finish Line:
“It was such a hard stage, the rain especially made the ascent even harder and the hail did hurt on the skin. But my teammates were once again great, protecting me the whole day. Tomorrow is a rest day, where it is important to rest and relax to be ready for the second part of La Vuelta.“ – Rafal Majka

“Luckily tomorrow is a rest day because today’s stage took its toll. The rain and hail made the finale so hard for the guys. But they showed strength and rode a good race. Rafał was able to stay close to the other favorites and crossed the line in a solid place. La Vuelta will continue on Tuesday, when we start the second part, everything is still possible and will give our best.” – Patxi Vila, Sports Director

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