Primož Roglič is in prime position to win a natural hat trick of Vuelta a España titles after taking his third victory on Wednesday’s brutal, wet mountain stage with a summit finish on HC-rated Lagos de Covadonga. Roglič attacked with Egan Bernal on the penultimate climb and then cracked the Colombian on the HC ascent. The Slovenian seized the red from Odd Christian Eiking and is now 2:22 ahead of second place Enric Mas.
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It was crunch time at the Vuelta. On the way to the first of two consecutive HC-rated summit finishes, the riders would pass over the Cat. 3 Alto de Ortiguero and then two trips up La Collada Llomena, 7.6 km at 9.1 percent. Lagos de Covadonga is 12.5 of 7.2 percent with two short descent sections, including one just before the red kite. Rain made the conditions hazardous.
We head back into the ⛰ at @lavuelta today and the famous Lagos de Covadonga finale!
— Team DSM (@TeamDSM) September 1, 2021
The GC Situation
The big questions of the day were whether Odd Christian Eiking could keep the red jersey away from Guillaume Martin 58 seconds back and Primož Roglič at +1:36, could Enric Mas and Angel Lopez make time up on Roglič, and how much movement would we’d see in the top 10–could Felix Grossschartner stay in it, for instance.
1) Eiking (Norway/Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) 60:06:47
2) Martin (France/Cofidis) +0:54
3) Roglič (Slovenia/Jumbo-Visma) +1:36
4) Mas (Spain/Movistar) +2:11
5) Lopez (Colombia/Movistar) +3:04
6) Jack Haig (Australia/Bahrain-Victorious) +3:35
7) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Ineos Grenadiers) +4:21
8) Adam Yates (Great Britain/Ineos Grenadiers) +4:34
9) Sepp Kuss (U.S.A./Jumbo-Visma) +4:59
10) Grossschartner (Austria/Bora-Hansgrohe) +5:31
11) Alexandr Vlasov (Russia/Astana-Premier Tech) +6:04
It was a route almost guaranteed to elicit Romain Bardet’s inclusion in the breakaway. He needed a significant buffer at the top of the mountains classification to prevent a GC favourite from taking the title on the two HC-rated summit finishes.
There was no breakaway until the Alto de Ortiguero, but Bardet wasn’t in its ranks. The octet was pulled back and Bardet managed to take a point.
On the first climb of La Collada Llomena, Eiking lost contact, but managed to get back. Michael Storer was in a new move, and by peaking the first climb of La Collada Llomena, he became teammate Bardet’s closest mountains competitor. Bardet would keep the dots.
Only one rider was loose on the second ascent of La Collada Llomena. Ineos brought him to heel with 6 km to climb. The pace was too much for Eiking and he finally submitted to the inevitable.
Bernal then attacked and Roglič found his wheel. Lopez lit out after them but couldn’t make the junction and went back to the Bahrain-Victorious-led chase group, which also contained Martin. By the peak of the day’s penultimate climb Bernal and Roglič were 45 seconds ahead and the Slovenian was back in red on the road.
The descent was tricky, as it was not only wet but also peppered with fallen leaves. The Colombian almost came undone on one corner. Haig nearly augered in on the same corner. Behind, Eiking and 11th place Vlasov crashed.
Roglič started to work with Bernal and their gap increased. Movistar’s Mas and Lopez started to worry.
— ammattipyöräily (@ammattipyoraily) September 1, 2021
Lagos de Covadonga
By the foot of the monster, the Slovenian-Colombian joint effort had a 1:30 lead over the chase. Haig’s Bahrain-Victorious continued to pull the pursuit. Martin, who crashed on Tuesday, was the first to drop away and he watched the podium head up the road away from him. He’d still be fifth at the end of the day.
The gap increased. Surely someone would attack from the chase to try to bridge over.
With 7.5 km remaining, Bernal cracked.
Lopez attacked from the chase. Yates and Kuss joined him. In front of them, Bernal started to stare at his front tire. Mas and Haig joined the chase and then Mas attacked, but Yates brought him back. As soon as Mas returned, Kuss put in a thrust. The chase finally nabbed Bernal with 1.8 km to go.
After slicing and dicing Kuss came in second place, +1:35 of his teammate. The American was one of several riders who moved up one or two places in the top-10 at the expense of Eiking and Martin. Grossschartner kept in the top-10 and Haig’s Swiss teammate Gino Mader jumped up into the top-10.
Thursday’s HC-rated summit finish, Altu d’El Gamoniteiru, is even tougher than Lagos de Covadonga.
2021 Vuelta a España Stage 17
1) Primož Roglič (Slovenia/Jumbo-Visma) 4:34:45
2) Sepp Kuss (USA/Jumbo-Visma) +1:35
3) Angel Lopez (Colombia/Movistar) s.t.
2021 Vuelta a España GC
1) Primož Roglič (Slovenia/Jumbo-Visma) 68:42:56
2) Enric Mas (Spain/Movistar) +2:22
3) Angel Lopez (Colombia/Movistar) +3:11
4) Jack Haig (Australia/Bahrain-Victorious) +3:46
5) Guillaume Martin (France/Cofidis) +4:16
6) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Ineos Grenadiers) +4:39