Aru on the uphill, Dumoulin on the downhill and Nicolas Roche way ahead of them

In the autumn of his career, Haimar Zubeldia appears to have made an uncharacteristic decision to get on TV. He was one of two riders to emerge from a really rather sizeable break on stage 18. The other was Nicolas Roche, who won the stage for all the Franco-Irish out there.

Roche generally rides well in the Vuelta. He even led it at one point in 2013. This year things haven’t panned out exactly as he’d have hoped – more through misfortune and team duties than lack of form – but a stage win’s a fair consolation.

Behind, Fabio Aru attacked Tom Dumoulin maybe half a dozen times. Dumoulin didn’t let him go, but you have to feel for him. He wants to ride at his own speed, at a steady, even pace. But when you’ve only got a three second advantage, you kind of feel obliged to follow the guy who’s threatening you. He had no success today, but Aru will keep doing this.

I think we’ve all imagined that we were Tom Dumoulin at some point or other. When I looked at the profile of today’s stage, I thought to myself: ‘I’d attack on the final descent’ – the thinking being, why not try and actually gain some time when the gradient isn’t against you?

Well apparently in this particular instance I am like Tom Dumoulin, for that is exactly what he did. He too failed to gain any time, but good on him.

Two more hilly stages await. May the fisticuffs continue.