Vuelta a Espana 2021 – Primoz Roglic grabs red after cracking Egan Bernal on Lagos de Covadonga
Primoz Roglic’s third win of La Vuelta saw the defending champion take back the red jersey for a third time after a commanding Stage 17 win at Lagos de Covadonga. After Roglic followed Egan Bernal’s attack with 60km remaining, the Slovenian dropped the Colombian on the final climb. Sepp Kuss completed a Jumbo-Visma one-two as Odd Christian Eiking crashed out of red.
Stage 17 highlights: Roglic back in red after supreme Covadonga ascent
The Vuelta a Espana finally came alive in the sodden Asturias mountains on Wednesday with a superb Jumbo-Visma one-two which saw Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic establish a hefty lead over his general classification rivals at Lagos de Covadonga. American teammate Sepp Kuss led the chasers home 1:35 down on the Stage 17 winner as Roglic moved back into the red jersey for a third time in this race after a third stage win.
Roglic now leads Spain’s Enric Mas by 2:22 with a second Movistar rider, Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez, in third place at 3:11. The defending champion rode clear of the main pack with 61km remaining of the 186km stage in the Picos de Europa national park, covering a gutsy all-or-nothing move from the Colombian Egan Bernal.
Bernal, the reigning Giro d’Italia champion wearing the white jersey as best young rider, threw the dice early after his Ineos Grenadiers team paved the way and strung out the main pack on both ascents of the Collada Llomena climb. The duo opened up a lead of over two minutes on the chasers before Roglic dropped Bernal 7.5km from the finish with a stinging attack on the steepest section of the final climb.
Bernal was caught by the pursuers inside the final two kilometres and finished in the Kuss group alongside British teammate Adam Yates, Movistar’s Mas and Lopez, and Bahrain Victorious pair Jack Haig and Gino Mader. Kuss kicked clear on the final ramp to complete the perfect day for Jumbo-Visma, the American pipping Lopez and Yates on the line to rise one place to seventh on GC.
A brutal and rain-soaked day saw Norway’s Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) relinquish the race lead and drop to 11th place in the standings after crashing on the treacherous descent of the penultimate climb having already been distanced by the favourites. Frenchman Guillaume Martin, the Cofidis rider who trailed Eiking by 54 seconds entering the stage, dug in deep but was dropped by the chase group on the final climb. Martin falls from second to fifth in the new-look top ten.
Roglic on lead: 'It's never big enough'
“I enjoyed today – it was a super nice day for me and the whole team,” 31-year-old Roglic said after securing the eighth Vuelta scalp of his career.
Asked what he thought when Bernal attacked on the third of four climbs, Roglic said: “Nothing – I just went with him. It’s a race, at the end, and I didn’t think about it. I just went with him. But then I thought it was quite far out and there was still a hard climb to go. But it was a good show, huh?”
On his distancing of Bernal on the infamous steep 16% section of La Huesera, Roglic replied: “I didn’t decide to go then. I just tried to ride as fast as possible up the climb. At that point, Egan didn’t follow so I just went on alone.”
Besides Eiking, whose seven-day reign in red came to an end, the big GC casualty of the day was the Russian Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana-PremierTech, who crashed on the same slippery corner as the Norwegian and looked to be on the brink of withdrawing. Vlasov battled to the finish but came home 35 minutes down to drop eight places to 19th. Trek-Segafredo’s rotten run continued with the early abandonment of Frenchman Kenny Elissonde, one day after their GC hope Giulio Ciccone crashed out of the race.
Kuss finds time to grin at Roglic during sprint finish
No joy for early breakaways after fast start
A blistering pace saw the riders cover 51.2km in the opening hour with a dangerous-looking eight-man breakaway featuring double stage winner Michael Storer (Team DSM) and the American Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) coming to nothing after being brought to heel on the Cat.3 Altu de Hortigueru.
After the peloton split twice on the approach to the circuit that would include a dual ascent of the Cat.1 Collada Llomena, another move formed off the front with the likes of Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), Fabio Aru (Qhubeka-NextHash), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) all involved.
But after Spanish climber Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) managed to bridge over with relative ease, Ineos Grenadiers came to the front of the pack in the form of Russian Pavel Sivakov and the man in white, Bernal. The duo tapped out a strong tempo as Eiking yo-yoed off the back and the heavens started to open.
The breakaway was entirely swept up on the descent save for the Frenchman Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) who ploughed a lonely and wet furrow off the front to the foot of the third climb, the second ascent of the new Collada Llomena test.
History repeated itself as Sivakov and Bernal once again took the reins from the Jumbo-Visma train to stretch out the peloton, drop the red jersey, and swiftly end Le Gac’s foray off the front. Then, with 61km remaining, Bernal made a move which only Roglic and his teammate Kuss could follow – although the American soon dropped back to a chase group being paced by the Bahrain Victorious teammates of Jack Haig.
Bernal throws hammer down as only Roglic can follow
It was a brave move of Bernal to go so early, and the 24-year-old former Tour and Giro winner was forced to do all the riding by a Roglic content to sit in his wheels and hold on. The pair went over the top with 55 seconds to play with before Bernal’s slight miscalculation on a corner was the sign of things to come on what had become a far more treacherous descent the second time round in the rain.
Chasing back on behind, Eiking skidded on a slippery corner which had already seen Vlasov hit the deck hard along with a handful of other riders. While the Norwegian swiftly got back on his bike, it was always a case of damage limitation from that point onwards.
'Pushed it too far' - Leader Eiking caught up in nasty crash
Bernal and Roglic stretched their lead to 2:10 on the valley road towards the final climb – although some hefty pacing from Bahrain’s Wout Poels, Damiano Caruso and Gino Mader saw the gap come down to 1:30 ahead of the mythical 12.5km climb, which was being used for the 22nd time in Vuelta history.
The leaders maintained that gap but the balance of power shifted from Bernal, who started to look tired, to Roglic, the fresher of the two. The Slovenian then kicked clear with 7.5km remaining – perhaps the moment that he secured his third successive Vuelta victory.
'That is a gap!' - Roglic cracks Bernal
Behind, there were attacks from Lopez, Yates, Mas and even Kuss as Bernal was eventually reeled in while Roglic continued powering on through the mist towards victory and the red jersey. A single punch to the air and a resounding “Yes!” was all Roglic could muster as he took the win, 1:35 before his teammate Kuss led home the eight-man chase group.
After a solid ride from his Bahrain teammates – with Swiss tyro Mader finishing in that group to rise into the top 10 on GC – Haig kept alive his hopes of a podium finish. The Australian is in fourth at 3:46, 30 seconds clear of Martin. Bernal, Yates, Kuss, the Austrian Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mader complete the top 10 on a day Roglic reigned supreme.
Thursday’s 163km Stage 18 continues in the same vein with four tough climbs, including the Vuelta’s first ever summit finish on the Altu d’el Gamoniteiru – the highest paved road in the Asturias mountains and, with its consistent double-digit gradients, one deemed a match for the nearby Alto di Angliru.
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