Vuelta a España 2019 Stage 20 Highlights: Final Mountain Showdown! | GCN Racing

Welcome back to GCN Racing and highlights
of stage 20 of La Vuelta a Espana. Yesterday, there was some controversy with
60kms to go after this crash that involved the red jersey Primoz Roglic – Movistar drilled
it on the front immediately after that crash, putting over a minute into Roglic, before
they sat up, allowing everything to come back together. Except for the break, that is – Remi Cavagna
had been a part of an 11 man group but went solo with 25kms to go, and was never seen
again. He’d take his first Grand Tour stage victory,
whilst Deceuninck Quickstep placed three riders in the top 4. Roglic arrived safe and sound near the front
– he’d initially lost 3 seconds to Valverde, but later the jury corrected it and gave the
GC riders all the same time, so his lead remains 2 minutes and 50 seconds on the Spaniard going
into stage 20. Today was the final day in the mountains. A long and a tough 190kms which included 6
categorised climbs, and a summit finish at the Plataforma de Gredos. This really was the last chance for any changes
in the general classification, but it remained to be seen whether or not anybody was willing
to go all in, and risk it all to try and dethrone Roglic at the top of the table. With so much at stake, it wasn’t a surprise
to see an active start, although perhaps not quite as active as we were expecting. By the time the serious climbing started,
we had a group up the road with an advantage of close to three minutes. But then, just as it looked like things had
settled down, Astana hit the front, attacking the group of GC favourites. First Sanchez, then Cataldo, the Izaguiree
brothers also in on the action. They were determined to get some riders up
the road ready for a Lopez attack later in the stage. The front group managed to cling on to a slim
advantage a the top of the first climb of the day. On to the second one, and it was Lawson Craddock
who was attempting to bridge up to them. He’s come close on a couple of occasions
to pulling off a big result at this Vuelta, but it’s never quite gone his way. Eventually, with almost 60kms raced, he’d
managed to get himself to the front of the race. We have to give a tip of the hat to Jumbo
Visma, though. They lost a key rider in the form of Steven
Kruijswijk, very early on in this race, and yesterday they lost Tony Martin, but despite
that, the remaining riders were more than in control of the situation on what was a
very tough day. Tao Geoghehan Hart, not a threat on the GC,
was allowed up the road, and he’d close the 1m38s gap in impressively short order. Could this finally be the day where he took
his maiden GT stage win? Well, not if Astana had anything to do with
it, they’d once again hit the front inside the last 70kms, the gap at this point close
to 4 minutes. Their acceleration did put a number of riders
in trouble, including some of Roglic’s lieutenants, and in the space of 14 kilometres, they’d
wiped close to a minute off the lead of the breakaway. 10kms later, and that gap had halved again,
1 minute and 36 seconds between Geoghehan Hart and Guerrero and the red jersey group. Well, he was my prediction for the stage,
and with 43kms to go, Lopez was doing what he does best, attacking on the steeper gradients,
but, if he looked behind him, he’d realise that all of his rivals were glued to his wheel. Which wasn’t the case when this man went. Tadej Pogacar, the revelation of this year’s
Vuelta, but clearly not content with the two stage wins and his 5th place on GC. He’d head up the road on the penultimate
climb of the day, and nobody was able to go with him. He had an off day two days ago in the mountains,
but that was clearly a blip, Pogacar was on fire today and opening up a decent gap in
a very short period of time, and in fact, with 3kms to the top of the climb, his advantage
was up to a minute, and he’d added more than 30 seconds to that as he hit the following
descent. This was starting to look like a very dangerous
move. And they were fully aware of that behind,
it wasn’t quite panic stations yet, but Lopez could see his white jersey disappearing,
and there didn’t appear to be a lot that he could do about it. Pogacar, by this point, had launched himself
into it, and also onto the provisional podium. Could he keep it going all the way to the
finish, though? Well, despite Movistart’s best efforts,
the gap remained steady, and with 4kms to go to the finish line, it was still over a
minute and a half. Hermann pernsteiner was the next rider to
make a move behind, but Valverde was on the back foot, Pogacar was closing in on him in
2nd place on GC, and so with a little over 2.5kms to go, he’d hit the front to ride
as quick as he could to the line. It wasn’t the day for my pick, though, surprisingly,
Lopez was looking very fatigued. Valverde had caught Pernsteiner soon after,
but he wasn’t really making any in-roads to the gap to Pogacar, which was still over
a minute and a half as he came towards the flamme rouge. There was absolutely no doubt about the winner
of the stage. It’s been the year of the youngsters, and
the Vuelta of the Slovenians. A more impressive ride we are rarely privileged
to see, but you wouldn’t be surprised to this man pull this off again in his career
– remember, he’s not even 21 yet! A shake of the head as he realised that he’d
just won his 3rd Grand Tour stage in his first Grand Tour. Incredible stuff. Where had he finished overall, though? Valverde sprinted to the line, and stopped
the clock after 1 minute and 32 seconds, enough to conserve his runner up spot on GC. 10 seconds
later, and Roglic would roll across the line to secure his first Grand Tour, and the first
for Slovenia. That, was very well deserved. It was a disappointing finish for Lopez, though. He’d finished on the podium at this race
last year, but it wasn’t to be this time around, he’d not only miss out on the top
3, but also lose his white jersey to Pogacar. Tomorrow, the riders will finally arrive in
Madrid, on what will be little more than a parade for the majority of the almost pan
flat 105.6kms. They’ll be completing 10 laps of a city
circuit which is just under 6kms in length, just like last year. We are almost guaranteed a sprint finish and
the end of it all, and as such, I’m going to go very the very obvious pick of Sam Bennett,
to take his third stage win of the race. Bye for now, see you again tomorrow.

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