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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, September 3, 2021

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Vuelta a España stage 18 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez's Team Movistar:

Decimated by the crashes, yet never losing a bit of commitment, the Movistar Team riders were finally able to celebrate at the 2021 La Vuelta on Thursday with a victory they really deserved – and at no less than the Queen stage, with Miguel Ángel López supported by a magnificent group of team-mates during day 18 of the race from Salas to the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru (Hors Categorie).

Miguel Angel Lopez

Miguel Angel Lopez just after winning the stage. Sirotti photo

The five riders from the Telefónica-backed squad –backed before the stage by Telefónica CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete and Telefónica Hispanoamérica CEO Alfonso Gómez, who spent the day with the team- looked like way more over the tough course in Asturias. Imanol Erviti, part of the early break, was caught by the bunch into a perfect place, after the descent of La Cobertoria (Cat-1), to do a five-star work alongside Nelson Oliveira and ruined the escape’s chances. José Joaquín Rojas protected both López and Enric Mas -3th at the finish- en route to the final climb. And the good legs from Enric and ‘Superman’ gave the Colombian confidence to attack with 4km to go, with no opposition from the other race contenders, and win ahead of GC leader Roglic (TJV) and second-placed Mas.

The Movistar Team thus increases its list of wins to 32 this season -that’s 14 for the men’s outfit in 2021- and no less than 121 Grand Tour stage victories for the Abarca Sports organisation since 1980. Mas and López -who remains 3rd overall behind the Spaniard- now have more than one minute and a half’s advantage for the podium with three days to go, all of them in Galicia. For now, they will enjoy themselves for a few hours after a victory which pays back so many bad moments and suffering for everyone in the Telefónica-backed squad in recent times.

REACTIONS:
Miguel Ángel López: “It was a long time for me already since I wanted to win again in La Vuelta. It’s been four years since my last success here, and achieving it on the Queen stage makes me so happy. I do this with so much commitment, ambition, and love for my wife and my son. I’m so thankful to my team-mates for their work. We’re only five now in the race, and we’re missing Carlos, Alejandro and Jacobs so much. However, everyone still here puts a lot of work to make up for the losses. It’s been so beautiful to pay the team-mates back for this. The efforts from Imanol, Nelson, Rojillas, Enric… they were magnificent.

"This means a lot to us. Only those who are here, inside the team, know how hard it is, how much you suffer every day. Without the sponsors, the staff, the soigneurs, sports directors, our manager Eusebio – it wouldn’t be possible. This can’t be about talking and criticising so much all the time. We offered some good spectacle today, and we go back home with this beautiful victory, so happy about the brilliant work done by all of my team-mates. We also knew this day was important with regards to the GC, we had to take full advantage from it and this will keep us more calm before the next few days heading into Santiago.”

José María Álvarez-Pallete (Telefónica CEO): “This is a day to congratulate the whole Movistar Team for their victory in such a fabulous stage. Miguel Ángel crowned a splendid job from the whole team, and we must take our hats off for what he did. I hope all fans have enjoyed the magnificent spectacle we’ve seen today, over a beautiful route, also a really hard one, where all riders gave it their all, or even better. This is also a victory by Alejandro, Johan and Carlos, who are now recovering from injuries. There’s still some stages left in this Vuelta, and the whole team will continue to do their best and try it until the very end. This team fully represents our values, and they’ve got all of our confidence and support.”

Enric Mas: “I’m so happy, for Miguel Ángel and the whole team, who completed a fantastic job. Imanol was already in the early break, then pushed so hard at the peloton with Nelson, Rojillas took care of us until the last climb – and that attack from Miguel Ángel was great. We knew that, if it was me who attacked, the most likely thing would be Primoz going after me, while Miguel Ángel would be given that sort of margin to go for the stage. Once he jumped, even if I wanted to also try, I had to respect my team-mate and the whole team for their incredible job. We’ve won this stage and we’re leaving so happy with that. Saturday’s stage -tomorrow’s will also be one to keep an eye at – will be again hard, and anything can happen. We must try and get as much rest as possible tonight, see what happens tomorrow and then think about the weekend.”

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

Primoz Roglic has kept his red leader’s jersey after the eighteenth stage of the Vuelta a España. In the queen stage to the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru, the Slovenian climbed to the second place behind Miguel Ángel López.

A large leading group, with Koen Bouwman on behalf of Team Jumbo-Visma, got a maximum lead of about five minutes. Behind the breakaway the pace was mainly set by the GC teams. After the last rider of the early breakaway was caught, Sepp Kuss controlled the pace. At the finish Roglic was a few seconds ahead of his closest competitor Enric Mas.

Roglic

Roglic was second across the line. Sirotti photo

Roglic was very happy that he had kept his jersey. “Today really felt like a queen stage. It was very tough. Especially after yesterday’s efforts. It wasn’t easy for me, but I’m glad I had something left on the final climb. We also didn’t have to control the stage with Bahrain and Movistar setting the pace. Their pace was fast, so the attacks we expected didn’t happen. I’m glad we’re done with the real high mountains. We’re all feeling the efforts of the past two days and the weeks before that. There are still a few difficult stages to come. Especially the one of Saturday. We have to stay focused.”

Here's the report from Egan Bernal's INEOS Grenadiers team:

Egan Bernal put in a tenacious, attacking performance to move up to fifth overall as Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) escaped the group of favourites to win stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.

Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal racing in stage nine. Sirotti photo

Following a hard stage stage raced in often torrential rain, Bernal was first to attack the general classification group on the fearsome Altu d’El Gamoniteiru summit finish.

Bernal was able to cause splits in a dwindling group with five kilometres to go before some of his rivals were able to catch him, with Lopez countering with a late move to go clear.

Sep Kuss (Jumbo Visma) then paced the GC group as Bernal and Yates both regrouped before Bernal launched another attack, this time only Enric Mas (Movistar) and race leader Primoz Roglic could follow.

Yates battled to limit losses in a chase group behind, as Bernal and Roglic traded accelerations, but the race leader was able to finish second with Mas third as Lopez stayed away to seal the stage victory.

The result sees Bernal move fifth overall and Yates sixth, with the Colombian moving closer to Jack Haig in fourth with three stages remaining.

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Vuelta report:

If yesterday's stage wasn't already difficult enough, today's 162 km long route was even more brutal, with its mountain finish atop the Alto del Gamoniteiro, a monster climb in the Asturias region which brought a very tough day in the saddle to a close. For the GC contenders this was the best chance remaining to move up the standings. Those having a bad day, on the other hand, could see their GC chances suffer significantly.

Vuelta profile

The day had some truly tough climbing.

With 70 km remaining, M. Storer broke free from the break, yet was eventually caught by the chasing group on the final ascent. When M. Lopez eventually attacked, no one else was able to follow and the Columbian took the stage win. Felix Grossschartner, who crashed yesterday, lost contact with the group of favourites in the second part of the final climb and crossed the finish line in 27th place, which saw him slip to 13th position in the GC.

From the Finish Line
"I didn't feel so good right from the beginning and I hoped that I would feel better on last climb but that ultimately wasn’t the case. I tried my best and eventually it wasn’t enough. I just have to accept what’s happened now and we’ll see in the next few days what we can do." - Felix Grossschartner

"Today was not a particularly great day for us. Felix didn't have the best legs and ended up dropping four places in the GC, which can happen in cycling. There is nothing we can do about it now, and we will see what exactly the issue was. We will continue to fight in the next stages and perhaps we’ll be able to make up some time. We’ll hope for a better day tomorrow. Everyone else supported him well and Ben was with him up the last mountain and helped him there.” Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

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