An Odd week with Roglic impervious to all his crashes | a recap of Stages 10-15 of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana

The week began with Primoz Roglic leading Enric Mas by 28 seconds. By the end of the week, the Slovenian had added an almighty seven seconds to that margin. He was however no longer in the lead.

A day of contradictions

Okay, this is a hard one to wrap your head around. Stage 10 saw Roglic crash on the run-in to the finish and surrender the overall lead, but it was also his most impressive and arguably most productive day of the week.

The key here is the break.

As many as 31 riders got away from the main peloton, forming a kind of reconnaissance battalion up ahead. Many of these riders finished 11 minutes ahead of Roglic and the other major contenders. Of these, the most significant were Australian rider Michael Storer, who won the stage; French rider Guillaume Martin, who moved up to second overall; and the extraordinarily-named Norwegian rider Odd Christian Eiking, who took the race lead.

More riders should have adjectives for names. It reminds us of mobster nicknames or a scene we just watched in Deadwood in which, “Harry mistook Bummer Dan for Slippery Dan.”

Odd or not, Eiking has no tremendous pedigree and is almost certainly only borrowing the race lead from Roglic or someone. Guillaume Martin however is good enough to have finished eighth at this year’s Tour de France.

Back with the the nominal favourites, Roglic took everyone by surprise by attacking on a climb 20 kilometres out. The move was sufficient for Egan Bernal and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) to both lose 37 seconds by the finish. This was despite the fact that Roglic fell off halfway down the final descent.

King of Colourful Quotes, Roglic reflected: “Without the crash, it would have been better, but it’s not too bad.”

The crash meant a few others caught him, but it was still – despite the loss of the race lead – a seemingly decent day.

A kick and a fall or two

Stage 11 brought a short, steep, uphill finish. Short, steep, uphill finishes tend to mean Primoz Roglic wins these days. Primoz Roglic won.

He mostly benefited by way of bonus seconds. Enric Mas, increasingly obviously the best of the rest, was second.

There was then a brief scare for Roglic on Stage 12 when he and some team-mates had to catch up again after a crash, but the day was otherwise unremarkable.

Exactly the same thing happened on Stage 13. Roglic’s team-mate Koen Bouwman observed: “Spain is characterised by slippery roads and I think there was some oil on the road. That was annoying.”

And then we were back in the mountains.

The non-climax

Stage 14 had a summit finish, but the most noteworthy element of the profile was a 3km climb halfway through that was steep enough to be rated a Category 1.

Despite its brief severity, it wasn’t positioned influentially and so Miguel Angel Lopez waited until the similarly-rated 14km final climb to test Roglic. He gained all of four seconds.

Stage 15 brought 198km of classic breakaway terrain – up and down and up and down. 

That was only after a flat start though and widespread desire to be in that breakaway meant that the riders did 51km in the first hour. I don’t know if you’ve ever done 51km/h on your bike. I’m pretty confident you didn’t do it for an hour, even if you did.

Rafal Majka, who used to get a mention in my Grand Tour previews not so long ago, was the man who eventually broke away from the breakaway to get the win. 

Not much else happened, which was a fitting way to end what had turned out to be a weirdly nondescript week by Vuelta standards.

The situation

Yes, I’m well aware that the final week is already underway, but for appearances’ sake, let’s pretend it isn’t for a moment so I can more neatly package this as my second week recap.

The race situation is this.

Join me next week for my final week recap. I’ll aim for Monday, but I promise nothing. It’s late in the season. Fatigue is kicking in.

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