Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rest Day Review – La Vuelta 2019

Ah... a day of rest. Hardly...


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Rest Day Review

Stage One

Welcome to our Rest Day Review, a look back at the highlights of the first week. Remember all those jokes about getting sent to the salt mines for misdemeanours?

Those World Tour riders must have been real bad to get this gig; a 13.4 kilometre team time trial around the salt lagoons of Torrevieja with the first kilometre surrounded by thousands of tons of the stuff, small bags, big bags and a range of small white hills.

Rest Day Review
Astana cross the salt roads next to the processing apparatus. Photo©Martin Williamson

Tour TTT tamers, Jumbo Visma were favourites but stacked up on a tight corner made ‘aero bike-trap’ by water which allegedly leaked from a kiddies’ paddling pool.

To add insult to injury, the parked up Jumbo team car baulked those other TTT maestros, reigning world champions, Deceuninck QuiickStep who lost to Astana by a scant two seconds.

UAE also tasted well-salted tar when they came down too.

Rest Day Review
Photo©Luis Angel Gomez

If we resort to Eurosport commentator, ‘Rob Hatch Speak’ for a moment, that put Colombia’s “Sooperr Maahnn” Lopez in the jersey of leadership.

* * *

Stage Two

From Benidorm to Calpe with the organisers dubbing it a ‘sprinters’ stage; the 20 kilometre Confides climb, maybe?

It was long but not savagely steep and came early in the day – they could breast that.

But the steep ramps of the 3.1 kilometre Puig climb in the last hour?

As they say in Belgium; ‘nae, nae, nae!

Rest Day Review
Jumbo’s Sepp Cuss looks like he’ll prove handy in the mountains still to come. Photo©Martin Williamson

It was so much of a ‘sprinters’ stage that it was a group of GC riders who contested the finale with a cheeky, late escape giving former Vuelta winner, Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Spain) the win and Nico Roche (Sunweb & Ireland) the red jersey, stealing it by a handful of seconds from Lopez.

Rest Day Review
Nico in red. Photo©Sarah Meyssonnier

The Astana riders breathed a sigh of relief and wished Sunweb ‘good luck’ as Roche tugged on the tunic, which fortunately had long sleeves and covered those tattoos.

* * *

Stage Three

From  Ibi to Alicante and with a couple of ascents; but nothing as severe as the Puig and with the last kilometres off the Puerto de Tibi predominantly downhill, giving plenty of opportunity to get back on if ‘the man with the hammer’ got you on the climb.

Rest Day Review
Tim Declercq on the radio to marshal his team and ensure Gaviria remains dropped. Photo©Martin Williamson

Unless your name was Fernando Gaviria that is, in which case you fell victim to Bora and Deceuninck’s nitro-fuelled blast to the line to distance him, where Irish Champion Sam Bennett (Bora hansgrohe) confirmed he’s one of the fastest men on the planet, taking his 12th win of the year, lengths clear.

* * *

Stage Four

With a finale profile not dissimilar to Stage Three, the fourth stage from Cullera to El Puig saw Bennett get his timing wrong, he was travelling visibly faster than Deceuninck flyer, Fabio Jakobsen but the line came up too quickly and the Netherlands Champion won in a photo finish.

Jakobsen hugged team mate, Argentine Champion, Max Richeze after his win, the South American having delivered a dynamite lead out for the still only 22 years-old Dutch National Champion.

One of the best leadout men is Maximiliano Richeze. Photo©Martin Williamson

Tour podium finisher and Stage One crash victim, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo Visma & The Netherlands) went home today – if Alberto Contador and Chris Froome can’t do the Tour/Vuelta double then you’d be right to enquire, who on earth can?

* * *

Stage Five

‘Observatorio,’ there was a clue right there about this stage, generally these establishments are on top of a mountain – and this one was no exception, atop the first cat. 1950 metre Alto de Javalambre.

L’Eliana was where the 177 K stage with ‘breakaway’ written all over it kicked off and as expected the cream came to the top behind the escapees, with Lopez regaining red with what looked like disarming ease and Roglič, Quintana, Valverde, Uran, Majk and Pogacar all names from my race preview well there.

Roche didn’t collapse, rather he slid a little.

And good to see ‘smiler’ Chaves in the mix.

Angel Madrazo Ruiz (r), KoM and Stage Winner. Photo©Martin Williamson

If there were no GC surprises in the overall standings, the stage winner’s name raised eyebrows – Spain’s Angel Madrazo of pro conti Burgos BH.

He’s gallantly grabbed then defended the white maillot with the blue spots of mountains leadership through the last three stages but excelled himself today by taking the stage win in this, his fourth Vuelta.

The man from Santander has been a pro for a decade, joining Caisse d’Epargne in 2009 – and riding Paris-Roubaix for them then going on to Movistar and riding his first Vuelta in 2011 [DNF].

There are no major results during his time with the team just some solid finishes, like 3e in the GP Indurain and he was king of the mountains in the 2013 Tour of Britain.

Photo©Luis Angel Gomez

Movistar let him go and for 2014 the name on the jersey was Caja Rural with whom he scored is career hi-lite, prior today, that is, winning the tough Basque race Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika, a race in which he’s placed several times.

He rode two Vueltas with Caja Rural, finishing one.

He joined pro conti Delko Marseille for 2017 and 2018 before joining Burgos-BH for 2019; it’ll be interesting to see if he’s picked up by a World Tour team again…

* * *

Stage Six

I always think it’s the sign of a good race if the jersey keeps changing hands and Stage Six from Mora De Rubielos to Ares Del Maestrat and another summit finish saw Dylan Teuns [Bahrain Merida & Belgium] with the coveted garment draped over his hotel bedroom chair; whilst Cofidis grabbed a rare and very welcome Grand Tour stage win through Jesus Herrada.