As a wise man once said; “all good things must come to an end,” and the salida of Stage Four was our last couple of hours on the 2019 Vuelta. We’d planned a certain ‘shape’ of piece, which finished with a fantastic win for Angel Madrazo, but events of that stage and Thursday’s Stage Six rather over took our plans as abandons dominated the news.
The square shouldered Jumbo Visma Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, who should really be a Grand Tour winner by now but for a brush with a snow bank in the 2016 Giro, made the podium in this year’s Tour de France but pulled out of this Vuelta before Stage Four ended.
Perhaps it was injuries sustained in that disastrous Stage One TTT crash or maybe he just needs a rest before his 2020 build-up starts more than he needs to finish 17th in the Vuelta?
Displaying his best form in years, Nico Roche lead the race for three days making it a good Vuelta for Sunweb – but disaster struck the handsome Irishman on Stage Six when he came down hard;
Team doctor Camiel Aldershof explained:
“Nico was involved in a big crash. First analysis showed no major injuries fortunately.
“However he did require 10-12 stitches on his left forearm and has a bruised right quadricep which will be managed by a compression bandage.
“Nico will get further checks when he’s home to ensure there are no other issues.“
With Roche himself saying;
“There’s not much to say. I think this is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had in my career.
“I’d worked so hard to get back to this level and it was a new opportunity to show that I was at this level again.
“There’s nothing broken which is the good point.
“I have some stitches in my forearm and pain in my quadriceps which is why I could not continue.“
The same stack saw EF climbers Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) and Hugh Carthy (GB) out of the race; Urán and Carthy abandoned the race immediately after the crash and were taken to Hospital General Universitari de Castelló for treatment. Both riders have suffered broken left clavicles and will undergo surgery in the coming days.
“Hugh has broken his left collarbone and will need surgery to repair it.
“Rigo has also broken his left collarbone, just past the plate that was placed on the bone from the break he suffered in March [at Paris-Nice].
“He has also broken his shoulder blade in several places.”
– said Rick Morgan, the team’s doctor at the Vuelta.
And CCC weren’t spared with their man who wears the number one number, Victor de la Parte also ‘in the wars,’ the update from CCC Team doctor, Dr. Daniele Zaccaria reads;
“Víctor was involved in a crash which took down a big group of riders.
“He was riding in the middle of the bunch when it happened and there was not much he could do to avoid the riders who fell in front of him.
“He was immediately taken to hospital where X-rays revealed a fractured scapula and rib on his left side.
“Fortunately, the scapular fracture will not require surgery but, he will require around 40 days of rest before getting back to training.
“Due to the time of the year, with only two months of the season left, we will advise him to be patient, take things slowly and focus on recovery so that he is healthy and ready for the next season.”
After all that negativity, it seems a tad trite to mention the most popular man on the race – one Alejandro Valverde by name.
Stage One TTT start apart he always appears relaxed and has a smile for the cameras with his appearance out of the bus eliciting roars of approval from the multitudes.
The man from Colombia, who has won this race and the Giro in the past but looks less and less likely to join the ‘Lucky Seven’ who have won all three Grand Tours – Anquetil, Gimondi, Merckx, Hinault, Contador, Nibali and Froome – Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, is popular with the fans too, especially the Colombians who are here in vocal force.
His Stage Two win had them rapturous.
Colombia’s other ‘Big’ is Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) is less of a smiler but still popular with the fans and much in demand with the media.
Everyone is really polite with him – they saw what happened to that fan who knocked him off in the Giro…
Bora hansgrohe’s Polish climber, Rafa Majka should relish the challenging Iberian race route with it’s plethora of altitude gain; but he’s not sparkled like he used to, not for a man who’s twice been king of the mountains in the Tour de France.
The former ski jumper, Primož Roglič will miss the support of Kruijswijk in the mountains but has strong support in that sphere from Gesink and Bennett – and on the stages with less gravity involved has the power of Tony Martin to rely upon.
The 36 K Stage 10 time test will very much suit his palate.
But what of the ‘new wave’ coming through?
Deceuninck man James Knox however has been quietly going about his business with no pressure in his second Grand Tour (he started the Giro d’Italia this year, racing the first 12 stages) – the fact that the Belgian team has extended his contract for another two years says much about his potential.
EF’s tiny Colombian Sergio Higuita must be a firm contender for ‘youngest-looking man on the race’ – is he shaving yet?
But the 22 year-old is already turning heads, he made the ‘Royal Group’ which contested the finale on Stage Two and will have much more freedom in the absence of Carthy and Uran.
He’s only 20 years old but Tadej Pogacar has two stage race successes to his name in 2019 – The Algarve and California.
His Bahrain team are so excited about him that he’s been signed until 2023.
If he can avoid the fast cars and faster women he’s on a trajectory to the very top.
Good old ‘Cycling Weekly’ had young Ineos man, Geoghegan Hart down as a ‘favourite’ but his loss of almost 10 minutes on Stage Two soon scuppered that notion.
Then there are ‘war horses:’
The Belgian Paris-Roubaix winner, Philippe Gilbert will want a stage win and you can bet there’ll be a page or two in his race bible with a ring around it – meanwhile he’ll help Jakobsen on the sprint stages.
Another man who’s waiting for the rest to get tired is Lotto man Thomas De Gendt in his third Grand Tour of the year – or maybe he’ll be the one who is too tired?
But what of the fast men?
Irish Champion, Sam Bennett opened his account early, with Stage Three his 12th win of the year including wins in San Juan, UAE, Paris-Nice, Turkey, the Dauphine, Binck Bank and now the Vuelta, he’s won in every stage race he’s started this year, except Romandie.
But there are an awful lot of mountains to climb before that prestigious final sprint in Madrid.
Dutch National Champion at just 22 years-of-age, Fabio Jakobsen does of course have the best lead-out men in the world at his disposal with Declerq and Richeze on the Vuelta and then there’s the brilliant Michael Mørkøv…
He beat Bennett to Stage Four; the Irishman was finishing faster but the Richeze/Jakobsen double act had better timing…
Fernando Gaviria; in common with many, the rapid Colombian hasn’t dazzled us quite us much since he left Patrick Levefere’s team but he did come down heavily in the Stage One TTT.
A season or two ago we thought big Phil Bauhaus was a ‘coming man’ in the sprints – but he’s stalled…
Unlike the race, which rolled out – it’s Eurosport for us too now…