Sunday, May 19, 2024

La Vuelta 2019 – Our Final Review


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Our final look back at La Vuelta 2019.

Stage 17

A remarkable stage in this Vuelta; Deceuninck launch an ambush Geronimo would have been proud of, Roglic slips up but gets away with it, Quintana buys a ticket for the right train, it all starts to catch up with Pogacar and Gilbert scores his 77th professional victory at 50.628 kph.

Photo©Luis Angel Gomez

That speed got us to thinking about record speeds – not including individual and team time trials.

The fastest Tour stage is an easy one: ‘Super Mario’ Cipollini in 1999 with 50.4 kph over 194.5 kilometres.

The fastest Giro stage is harder to track down but we believe it to be 50.123 kph by Stefano Allocchio over a split stage of just 45 kilometres in in 1985 – he covered the distance in 53:52.

Remember that Giro stages used to start ‘piano’ … until Mario stopped for his comfort break and to take his leg warmers off.

We’re informed that Gilbert’s speed is only the third fastest Vuelta stage on record; with an average speed of 51.566 kph for a stage in 1963 – that’s one which is a wee bit before my time and I don’t have the details.

But I DO remember the fastest Vuelta stage, ever – Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (ONCE & Spain) won a stage in the 2001 Vuelta from Lograno to Zaragoza at an astonishing 55.176 kph due to, ‘ferociously strong and cross winds.’

He covered the 179.2 kilometres in just 3:14:52.

But what Gilbert’s ride did do was to gain him the ‘Ruban Jaune’ which is awarded to the rider who records the fastest speed in history in a major race – where the time keeping is above reproach – over 200 kilometres.

Philippe Gilbert. Photo©Martin Williamson

The award was initiated by Tour de France founder Henri Desgranges in 1936 with the first holder being Gustave Danneels of Belgium, who won the 1936 Paris–Tours in 41.455 kph.

Perhaps the best remembered holder is the late, great Dutchman Peter Post who recorded 45.129 kph over the 265 kilometres of Paris-Roubaix in 1964.

That record stood for 11 years until 1975 when Freddy Maertens won Paris-Brussels over 285 kilometres at 46.110 kph.

Gilbert eclipses Italian fast man Matteo Trentin’s 49.641 kph set when he won Paris-Tours in 2015.

Little else to add save, ‘CHAPEAU !’ to Phil Gil, Deceuninck and young Brit, James Knox who also bought the correct train ticket and moves into the top 10.

* * *

Stage 18

No slip ups from the former ski jumper today, he even extended his lead over – no, not Quintana, after yesterday’s ladder he was on a snake today and slipped to third – it was the man in the rainbow jersey who now sits in second spot.

It was another of those pesky Colombians who took the honours, they just get younger looking all the time – 22 year-old Sergio Higuita was the man who saved EF’s Tour and gave the squad their 15th win of the year.

Sergio Andres Heguita Garcia. Photo©Martin Williamson

After three seasons with Colombian squad Postobon the man who looks like he should still be at school joined Spanish continental team Fundacion Euskadi at the start of this season.

His results were solid; top 12 in all three of the season opening Majorcan races, best young rider in the Tour of Valencia, top 10 in the Ruta del Sol, a stage win and second on GC in the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal…

EF signed him at the start of May and he rode the Tour of California for them where he was second on GC, he followed that with fourth on GC in the Tour of Poland and has now won his first World Tour race – if his progression continues we could be looking at a Grand Tour rival for Bernal…

* * *

Stage 19

Big Frenchman, former Dwars door winner, Rémi Cavagna delivers Deceuninck’s fourth stage win of the race, their 61st UCI victory of the year and their 95th Grand Tour stage – I try to keep the superlatives to a minimum but it’s hard when you write about the Men in Blue.

Year in, year out, no matter which ‘Galactico’ retires or leaves for pastures new and a larger salary, the Deceuninck winning machine rolls ever onwards.

Rémi Cavagna. Photo©Martin Williamson

The man behind it, Patrick Lefevere was thinking about retiring a year or two ago but said that with the likes of Alaphilippe, Hodeg, Jakobsen – and now, Evenepoel coming through, he said he simply couldn’t; he was too involved with these young men and their futures to let that go.

‘Respect,’ Monsieur Lefevre – West Flandrian to the core that you are – and your magnificent team.

I suppose I best contribute my tu’pence worth on the other big talking point of the day – Movistar ‘riding’ with red jersey Roglic on the deck.

Vuelta 2019
Photo©Sarah Meyssonnier

There’s nothing in the rules says you must wait if a rival crashes; in the Classics that protocol is not even on the table.

Albeit seems to have entered the unwritten list of ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ in stage racing – like not attacking if the leader stops for the call of nature.

But an aspect to consider is that Roglič keeps getting caught out, the red jersey should not be back in the depths of the peloton, he should be up front with his team – like Valverde was.

Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain – and yes, Lance, not to mention Froome would never be seen anywhere but at the front of the peloton.

It’s easier back there in the bunch in the vacuum created by all the bodies in front punching through the air for you – but much, much more dangerous.

The Slovenian is without doubt the strongest man in the race but as a ‘Primoz come lately’ to the peloton he simply doesn’t have the race craft of the world champion who’s been in the pro peloton for nearly 20 years.

We’ll be looking for better positioning tomorrow, Primož!

And to end on a serious note, so sad to see Tony Martin crash out after the way he’s ridden for his team in this race – commiserations sir.

SIX categorised climbs tomorrow…

* * *

La Vuelta 2019 – Stage 20

Did I really say on my FaceBook page that Pogacar must be; ‘dog tired?

Yup, wrong again…

Hungry like the wolf,’ more like.

His third stage win, a leap over Quintana on to the podium and the white jersey torn from Lopez’s back – not a bad day at the office.

There’s a ‘but’ coming…

Vuelta 2019
Photo©Sarah Meyssonnier

It seemed to me strange that Quintana and Lopez offered up so little resistance to the 20 year-old from Komenda, a village of just some 896 souls at last count.

Peter Pavel Glavar gets a mention on Wikipedia as one of Komenda’s famous sons – he was a priest, bee keeper and writer – Tadej doesn’t get a mention but I’m sure that’s set to change soon.

As for the lack of resistance from Quintana and Lopez, perhaps I’m underestimating how tired they are?

Today’s stage was unrelenting, no ‘walls’ just one tough climb after another not to mention stressful descents right off the prime lines and a lot of wind – it all adds up.

Vuelta 2019
Primož Roglič. Photo©Martin Williamson

What of the overall winner?

Another Slovenian, Primož Roglič from the coal mining town of Trbovlje – just don’t ask me how to pronounce that – doesn’t give much away.

As he crossed the line there was no punching of the air or even a smile, just the usual pushing of the right button on his computer.

One would have to talk to his team mates to get to know more about this quiet man.

And on the subject of his team; what a difference from the Giro where he was isolated so many times – they rode themselves into the ground for him.

Lennard Hofstede was a case in point yesterday, riding kilometre after kilometre on point.

Vuelta 2019
Photo©Sarah Meyssonnier

Whilst Deceuninck again proved there’s more to them than just winning a lot of races, with former world champion and double stage winner Philippe Gilbert chaperoning the (one of several in the team) injured James Knox through the stage.

Unfortunately, despite the team’s best efforts Knox slid out of the top 10 and will finish 11th overall.

Pogacar provided a great last mountain stage for us.

Madrid: over to you Mr. Bennett…

* * *

La Vuelta 2019 – Stage 21

I should have known better when I alluded to a Sam Bennett as a formality in Madrid.

Tim, Remi, Stybie, Max and Fabio had other ideas and it was 2019 Vuelta stage win number five for ‘The Men in Blue’ – and 62 for the season.