Primoz Roglic has done something no-one else has done in a while | A recap of stages 13-18 of the 2020 Vuelta a Espana

Pressed for time?

Here’s a very quick summary: Primoz Roglic won the first stage of the Vuelta a Espana, lost the lead for a short period in the middle, but then won overall.

How did this happen?

Well here’s the recap of stages 1-12

And now here’s what happened in the final week…

The time trial

When we rode our bikes as kids, we always used to make a ramp. A big flat run-up and then a ramp.

That’s exactly what the Vuelta organisers did for their final week time trial, only the flat approach was 30km long and the ramp was 2km and at one point hit 30%.

The riders were not doing jumps off this one. (And nor were they smashing their handlebars through Dan’s parents’ greenhouse. Sorry, Dan’s parents – it was an accident.)

It can be intriguing to watch a time trial unfold but they aren’t much fun to report on.

The story is a simple one of time gaps, so here they are.

(Dan Martin, who finished fourth overall, is just off the bottom of that table, by the way, having lost 1m17s.)

It was a triply good day for Roglic. As well as winning the stage and earning himself a 39-second lead over Richard Carapaz, he no doubt exorcised a few internal demons after his flump in the final time trial at the Tour de France.

It was a less great result for Carapaz who lost a whack of time. He’s not great on the time trial bike, so he’d probably have felt okay about what he delivered. He’d have been less happy about seeing Hugh Carthy close in on him though. That was more of a surprise.

The Lancastrian gave it enough welly that he appeared to suffer a minor stroke halfway through.

This Vuelta was a big race for Carthy, who ended up finishing third overall. EF Pro Cycling went into the race looking to support Daniel Martinez, but he didn’t make it past Stage 4, at which point the Lancastrian took it upon himself to try and win the thing.

Despite his interest in biscuits and pub sports, Carthy is only 26. Personally I’m hoping he has an even better year in 2021 on the basis that he has a dry, funny air about him. (Honestly, that’s all I need.)

Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart is not an identikit cyclist by any means, but there is a plough-your-own-furrow quality to Carthy that I like rather more.

Carthy moved to Pamplona to ride for a Spanish team when he was 21 despite the fact he didn’t speak Spanish. Sounds like a terrible idea for a fish-and-chips Preston lad, but he loved it. He learned the language, tried new food and made friends with his Colombian flatmate.

He’s a phlegmatic, happy-in-his-own-company sort who doesn’t seem fazed by anything. It’s not a bad mentality for Grand Tour contender and it’s not a bad mentality for a human being.

Midweek hills

Stages 14, 15 and 16 brought no alarms and no surprises for the major contenders.

The only notable event was Roglic snaffling a time bonus on the third of those after finishing second in what was basically a sprint finish shorn of all sprinters.

It was symptomatic of the Slovenian’s commitment to putting in efforts at the finish line – an approach that netted him four stage wins in addition to the overall.

The final summit finish

And then suddenly it was Stage 17, the last meaningful racing ahead of the final sprint stage.

At this point Carapaz needed to make up 45 seconds on Roglic. A summit finish helps, but there’s a difficult equation in these situations. The later you attack, the more likely it is you’ll be able to take advantage of your rival’s fatigue; but you also have to go early enough to make up all that time.

There wasn’t a right time to go. After a couple of false starts, Carapaz got away with 2km to go.

He had 21 seconds on Roglic by the line, which with your amazing mathematical powers you’ll realise was not enough for the win.

Carthy also gained an entirely irrelevant six seconds on Roglic before then losing 28 seconds in Madrid after finding himself the wrong side of a split in the field.

A second Grand Tour for Roglic

So it seems like Primoz Roglic might be the best cyclist around at the minute.

That’s a weird thing to say when his season may end up being remembered for losing the Tour de France to Tadej Pogacar on the final day of proper racing, but think of it like this…

When Chris Froome won the 2018 Giro d’Italia, it meant he had won all three Grand Tours in a row, having also won the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2017.

Froome was, at that point, unquestionably the standout rider in the world. Since then, we’ve seen Geraint Thomas win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2018 Tour de France; Simon Yates win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana; Richard Carapaz win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2019 Giro d’Italia; Egan Bernal win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2019 Tour de France; Roglic win his first Grand Tour at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana; Tadej Pogacar win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2020 Tour de France; and Tao Geoghegan Hart win his first and so far only Grand Tour at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Roglic’s win in this race therefore marks him out as the first multiple Grand Tour winner in quite a while. Throw in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the fact that second in the Tour de France is not by any reasonable measure a catastrophe and we have a man who is perhaps now the benchmark.

What’s next?

I’ll refrain from going all Ned Stark on you, but you know the score: there’s no more bike racing this season.

It’s not entirely clear when it’ll return. A few 2021 races have already been cancelled and I’m anticipating another delayed and constricted season in 2021, albeit hopefully not quite so badly affected as this year.

These are the most important road races. This website will lurch back into life when one of those eventually takes place.

As ever, please sign up for the email if you don’t want to miss out when that finally happens.


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