Primoz Roglic may have missed out on back-to-back stage wins in the Cantabrian mountains in Asturias but second place on the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru saw the Slovenian strengthen his grip on the red jersey – and edge closer to Fabio Jakobsen’s green jersey while keeping himself in the mix for the polka dots now controlled by Michael Storer.
But could the Jumbo-Visma all-rounded possibly end up with all three jerseys come Sunday? In short, it's about as likely as it is that he ends up with none.
Let’s take a closer look at the Vuelta’s classification competitions…
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Roglic in red jersey is ‘done deal’ – Wiggins

Red Jersey: Roglic in pole position

Stage 18 winner Miguel Angel Lopez slashed his deficit to Roglic by 18 seconds on the brutish narrow ramps of the Gamoniteiru but the Colombian is still 2:53 down and in third place with three stages to remaining. Given Lopez can’t time trial for toffee, he’d be better off looking over his shoulder at Jack Haig and Egan Bernal rather than dreaming of red.
It was undeniably a morale-boosting stage victory for both Lopez and Movistar – the Spanish team’s first in Grand Tours all season – but ‘Superman’ still has a battle on his hands to secure the final berth on the podium behind Roglic and teammate Enric Mas.
Can Mas oust Roglic? In a word: no. While he’s looked more or less a match for the Slovenian on the long, tough climbs, he lacks the uphill kick to take any significant time off his rival on the remaining summit finish on Saturday, nor does he possess the against-the-clock skills to remotely trouble the Olympic TT gold medallist.
Only a crash is going to stop Roglic from becoming the only the third rider in history to win three Vuelta titles – and the first (at least, officially) to snare three on the bounce.

Roglic in red jersey is ‘done deal’ – Wiggins

Green Jersey: Jakobsen the clear favourite

As things stand, Fabio Jakobsen leads Roglic by 88 points and there remains a maximum 110 points up for grabs – so it is possible, but highly unlikely, that the Slovenian will pull this one off.
Even if Roglic wins Friday’s rolling Stage 19 (30pts), Saturday’s final summit showdown (20pts) and Sunday’s time trial (20pts) he would be 18pts shy of the Dutchman’s total. So he would need to win at least one of the two remaining intermediate sprints (20pts each) – or come at least fifth in both (10pts each) – to leapfrog Jakobsen, and that’s without the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider adding to his tally.
It’s a welcome result all round given the race organisers changed the system to favour the sprinters this year, giving more weight to flat stages (50pts) over hilly stages (30pts) or summit finishes (20pts). A Roglic win would be emphatic, but Jakobsen holding on far more satisfying.

Australia's Michael Storer of Team DSM in the polka dot jersey after Stage 18 of La Vuelta a Espana 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

Polka Dots: Team DSM hold the aces

Michael Storer’s starring role in Thursday’s breakaway – where he crested the first three climbs in pole position to take 25 KOM points – saw the Australian move above his teammate Romain Bardet in the polka dot jersey standings. A late attack from Bardet on the penultimate climb, however, saw the Frenchman add 3pts to his tally – enough to stay out ahead of Roglic in the standings had the Slovenian won the stage and pocketed the maximum 20pts up for grabs on the Gamoniteiru.
As things stand, Storer has 59pts, Bardet has 54pts and Roglic has 48pts, with both Damiano Caruso and Rafal Majka tied on 33pts.
There are a maximum 13pts available on Friday and 28pts on Saturday, for a total of 41pts. That means, in theory, even eighth place Sepp Kuss, who has 19pts, could end up the polka dot jersey on Sunday provided he crests the summit of each remaining climb in pole position and Storer fails to add another point (the American would have 60pts).
Of course, that’s not going to happen. And given the fact that Team DSM pair Storer and Bardet are not in the GC battle, you have to fancy both of them taking more of those remaining points than Roglic – especially given the final summit finish of this Vuelta (where the Slovenian is most likely to prevail) is only a Cat.2 test worth 5pts.

White Jersey: One classification Roglic can’t win

Even if Egan Bernal blows up, Roglic will be around six years too late to win the white jersey… The Colombian currently leads the youth standings by 3:05 on the impressive Swiss climber Gino Mader, who has risen to eighth on GC but will still be doing a job for Jack Haig. That should give Bernal a clear edge, given his revived interest in the podium.

'A great champion' - Bernal now showing he can match Roglic, says Wiggins

Team Classification: Bahrain, victorious?

In a fascinating development, four teams – Jumbo-Visma (1st & 7th), Movistar (2nd & 3rd), Bahrain-Victorious (4th & 8th) and Ineos Grenadiers (5th & 6th) – each have two riders in the current top eight: a sign of their collective strength in depth.
The Bahrain-Victorious team of Haig and Mader currently lead the team standings by 4:01 on Jumbo-Visma, with the depleted squads of Ineos and Movistar quite a bit further back in third and fourth. It’s a two-horse race and Roglic’s team could yet pull it off, what with both Kuss and Steven Kruijswijk in the ascendancy.
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