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La Vuelta 2019 – Our Final Review


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 ha