That’s the thing about time testing, you either can or you can’t do it; it’s down to how the Good Lord put you together, physically and mentally.
Therefore, no surprises with a Roglič win and ‘roja’ grabbing performance over a 20 mile parcours between Jurançon and lovely Pau; and whilst one can compliment Bevin on coming to second to one of the best clock bashers in the world, bear in mind that Roglič has had to cover every move by his rivals for the previous nine days whilst Paddy is at 57 minutes and has been trying to save his legs over the days before the time trial.
A great day for Roglič and for Bevin – not forgetting James Knox taking 15th spot on the same time as Lopez – who’s a tad less ‘sooperr’ in jousts with Father Time than he is against Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery.
The Colombian climber ceded exactly two minutes to the quiet Slovenian with the other Colombian climbing ‘Big,’ Quintana faring even worse with three minutes gone with the wind.
As they say in the ‘Batman’ comics, ‘Ouch!!’
Lopez will come back but it’s hard to see Quintana doing the same, there’s a tough Tour de France still in those legs of his.
* * *
Unless we go back to the days when the soigneurs panicked if they saw you near the bus fridge then you can’t have ‘death racing’ every day.
‘The Bigs’ had a post-chrono day off and left it to the minnows on a day which shouted, ‘breakaway’ as soon as one glanced at the profile.
It’s always nice when the ‘little guy’ wins and better still if he’s a ‘home boy’ – with those letter X’s in the stage finish town name, Saint-Palais to Urdax-Dantxarinea, it could only be the ‘Basque Land.’
Winner, Mikel Iturria from Urnieta [in the Basque Country, naturally] rides for Euskadi Basque Country – Murias – the sponsor being a Basque Construction company.
But they pull out after this season – however there’s talk of a new sponsor.
It would be sad to see the team go after so many years and incarnations of a Basque team – especially if you ever stood roadside in the Pyrenees among the orange-clad Euskaltel legions or watched Roberto Laiseka turn himself inside out to grab Tour de France stage glory.
Runner-up ‘man of the match,’ behind Iturria?
That could only be Tony Martin, he’s worth at least two ‘normal’ domestiques to Roglic.
* * *
The 10 fingers Phil Gil displayed when he won this stage?
His tenth Grand Tour stage; and that’s along with four Monuments – only the Primavera remains on his ‘to do’ list.
He’s been Belgian elite road race and time trial champion and of course, elite world champion
Then there’s Het Nieuwsblad, Fleche Wallone, Strada Bianche, San Sebastian and Paris-Tours.
One of the finest riders of his generation.
He’s smart too, spending the first six years of his career with F des J away from the remorseless spotlight glare of the Belgian Media – always anxious to ‘big up’ the next Eddy Merckx or Tom Boonen before the inevitable dismantling job.
And when his career waned with BMC he realised a change was necessary, joining QuickStep on a much reduced salary but with win bonuses – he was rejuvenated.
The next three seasons will see him back in the colours of Lotto for whom he rode three seasons before his BMC days.
As Deceuninck fan I’ll miss him in the blue and white colours.
Will he still win big with Belgium’s ‘other’ team?
His class is undoubted but Lotto ain’t Deceuninck…
Meanwhile, quiet man Roglič remains in red.
Tomorrow in a word?
* * *
The UAE press release says; ‘A pure class performance from Pogacar earns second stage win at La Vuelta.’
His results up to the late summer of last season were solid but not spectacular, and then:
- 1e GP Priessnitz Spa [Nations Cup]
- 4e Tour of Slovenia [1e: Roglic, 2e: Uran, 3e: Mohoric]
- 1e Tour de l’Avenir [the ‘u23 Tour de France’]
- 1e Giro Friuli
- top 10 u23 Worlds
And this year he’s won:
- Tour of the Algarve
- Tour of California
- Slovenian National Championship
and you already know about the Vuelta…
A podium finish looks well possible at the moment but that last week is savage for a mature professional, never mind a 20 year-old…
Can Roglic carry red all the way to Madrid?
There’s still a long way to go but right now he’s the strongest with neither Lopez nor Quintana able to match him.
And Quintana’s Tour will eventually catch him up.
Valverde will be more than happy with a podium and won’t risk that.
But bike racing is full of surprises.
* * *
A day which wasn’t perhaps exactly relaxed but when conversation was possible in the peloton, just what a weary coureur needs – then came the finale.
And with an easier day than usual there are more riders than usual ‘up for it’ – especially those that think they can get up that finish ramp a bit quickly.
Net result: chaos as a large percentage of the peloton ends up on the deck with Mitchelton Scott’s big sprinter, Luka Mezgec carted off to hospital.
Bennett reinforced that he’s the strongest man here inside that red kite as he took he second stage of the race; even as a Deceuninck fan I have to admit that he was quicker than Jakobsen when the young Dutchman took Stage Four, albeit the men in blue timed their run best, with Richeze as excellent as ever.
The Irishman’s value continues to rise…
Have you ever seen a ‘santuario’ – sanctuary – anywhere other than atop a mountain?
Me neither – and the finish climb to the holy place is the last of four cat. one climbs on the 154 kilometre agenda.
It’s gonna be a hard day at the office…
* * *
Four cat. 1 climbs; the first one is madness ‘til the break goes then the next two are a procession because even ‘The Bigs’ know that the race is the last climb…
But sometimes, like today, the break sticks and we get an unexpected and interesting winner.
Sepp Kuss has gone from mountain biker to Grand Tour stage winner in short order; during 2014/15 he won three national collegiate titles on the MTB.
As an amateur on the road he rode for the Gateway Harley Davidson Trek team for 2016 for whom he won a stage in the hard fought, early season Redlands stage race in California.
And later that year he took a stage in the tough Tour de Beauce in Canada for US professional team Rally Cycling.
In 2017 a series of top 10 results in North American stage races riding for Rally, culminating in second overall in the Tour of Alberta, caught the eye of Jumbo who signed him for season 2018.
Last season saw him dominate the Tour of Utah, winning three stages on his way to the overall win; earning him his first Grand Tour ride, in Spain.
This year he’s had a busy programme with Andalucía, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Giro and Dauphine all in his legs.
There were no ‘big’ results but fifth on the final stage of the last mentioned indicated that his system was becoming acclimatised to the rigours of the World Tour.
He’s been a key player in Roglič’s ‘Yellow Train’ and it shows the strength in depth of the team that they could let him off the leash to go for the stage win.
Meanwhile, at the top of the GC, his Capo remained rock solid.
* * *
Barring disaster, it’s Roglič’s to lose.
Valverde will be happy with the podium and won’t want to jeopardise that – he’s not Alaphilippe.
Pogacar, super talent or not, will be tired, remember that he’s only 20 years-old.
Lopez ambition stretches only as far as desperately trying to usurp Pogacar for the last spot on the podium.
Astana putting two of their best men in the break says a lot about the thought processes in the baby blue team car.
A stage win keeps the Astana name ‘up there’ – fourth on GC?
And then there’s Quintana?
A friend suggested that yesterday was Valverde’s ‘turn’ and today we’d see the Columbian ‘on the move.’
I didn’t have the motivation for a ‘social media scrap’ but did think; ‘today may be the day le Tour really catches up with him’ – and so it proved.
‘Chapeau’ to smiling Dane, Fuglsang, making his best ever season even better.
And we must doff our caps to young ‘Brits,’ Messrs. Geoghegan Hart and Knox; the former taking his second podium in two days and the latter on the cusp of the top 10 on GC.
Rest day mañana then one for the sprinters; Madrid is almost in sight.