As it happened - Vuelta a Espana 2021 - Stage 19: Breakaway survives thriller as Magnus Cort wins again
After a tense cat-and-mouse finale between the peloton and breakaway, Magnus Cort held on for a superb third stage win in La Vuelta at Monforte de Lemos. With the 32-man move whittled down to seven riders defying the chase, it was the Danish powerhouse who prevailed - thanks to teammate Lawson Craddock. You can watch La Vuelta live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk.
Following the unfortunately withdrawal of Louis Meintjes the only change sees David de la Cruz rising to 10th place ahead of tomorrow's final day in the mountains. Primoz Roglic retained his 2:30 lead over Enric Mas ahead of Stage 20.
Hugh Carthy may have gone home early but the American team now has three stage wins in this race thanks to that man Cort, who combined excellently with Craddock today.
"It’s amazing – it’s a dream now and I really hope I don’t wake up. It was not until the last five or six kilometres that I started believing," Cort said after his latest success. "They always kept us close and it was a really hard day. Everybody had tired legs and it was hard to work well together over this hilly terrain. I could not have done this without my teammate Lawson Craddock supporting me in the breakaway so I must thank him for everything he did today."
Hat-trick for Magnus Cort!
And that worked out perfectly for EF Education-Nippo with their Danish powerhouse rewarding his teammate Lawson Craddock for his hard work by powering trough and holding off Rui Oliveira and Quinn Simmons for his third win of the race. It was the American Simmons who led that one out but Cort has too much of a kick. Bagioli was fourth, Roux fifth and Kron sixth, before Craddock crossed the line, his arms aloft, a distant but delirious seventh.
When the pack came home 19 seconds down it was Alberto Dainese who pipped compatriot Matteo Trentin for eighth. What a finish. What a stage!
Cort has Craddock to lean on and it's the American who leads the seven-man move towards the flamme rouge with the Dane and Oliveira placing themselves on the back of this line of riders. The tension is palpable as Craddock leads them through a tight right-hander and onto a long straight ahead of the finish straight...
5km: Pendulum swings towards breakaway
Romain Bardet was on the front for a few kilometres but still the gap grows to 33 seconds. And with the GC teams now coming to the front to protect their men, it looks like the seven men out ahead will battle it out for the stage win. They must all be pretty knackered so it's anyone's to win or lose.
8km: Back seat for Groupama-FDJ
Arnaud Demare is there with one or two teammates but they are not contributing to the chase - ditto Deceuninck-QuickStep. It's only DSM and BikeExchange, which is why the gap is still 30 seconds for the leaders.
10km: Still 24 seconds for the leaders
They are really not giving up on this easily, with Craddock currently burying himself for his man Cort. To be fair, they're all contributing because they all know that that's the only way one of them can win.
15km: Team DSM finally join the chase
Alberto Dainese's teammates have edged ahead to lend a hand in the chase. The gap is still 28 seconds though. Decuninck-QuickStep have a couple of men there as well: Jakobsen may be out of the equation but they could still play the Florian Senechal card.
Out ahead, you have to fancy Magnus Cort from this seven-man group - although Andrea Bagioli pushed him all the way for his second stage win last week, while Oliveira is quite a fast finisher and may be why UAE are not playing the Matteo Trentin card (if indeed the Italian is even in the peloton; he could be in that green jersey gruppetto).
19km: Fascinating finale, this
The gap is still 34 seconds and despite the chase from BikeExchange it's not really coming down. "It's going to get difficult for them because they have been riding for a long time," says Sean Kelly. The Australian team really needs someone else to chip in because they're doing it all on their own. "I think they're done for," says Carlton Kirby.
26km: Seven clear on the front
Simmons and Oliveira have been caught by the chasers so we now have seven of that initial 32-man break who are still defying the peloton with a gap of 28 seconds as they take on an uncategorised hill towards the intermediate sprint. Behind it's still BikeExchange and Jumbo-Visma who lead the chase - but if they can go over this climb ahead then the downhill will play into their hands.
It's Simmons who wins the sprint ahead of Oliveira and Craddock, in fact, so that must have happened just before the connection was made.
30km: Simmons boshes a gel
I imagine downing a gel when you have a grizzly ginger beard and are very much on the rivet isn't exactly a tidy business. But desperate times means desperate measures for the American. He takes on this pick-me-up from one of his Trek soigneurs after momentarily riding clear of Oliveira. They're back together now with an 18-second gap on their five pursuers: teammates Craddock and Cort, Roux, Kron and Bagioli. The pack is at 48 seconds.
34km: Simmons and Oliveira go clear
The American and the Portuguese have decided to take matters into their own hands. They have Craddock and Padun in pursuit as the pack keeps the pace up behind. This lookss like to be the end for the breakaway, with riders all over the road as a result...
36km: BikeExchange on the front
Team BikeExchange came to the front during that hectic period with those crashes and they are drilling a hefty tempo now as they stretch out the peloton and bring back the breakaway to just 40 seconds. So, it's looking good for Michael Matthews again. And Alberto Dainese, in all fairness.
40km: Izagirre collides with soigneur
Another incident there as the Spaniard clips one of the soigneurs handing out bidons in the middle of the road. The Astana rider seems to be okay - he came off best in that collision - and is quickly on his way. But it will be a difficult chase with the pace so high.
Louis Meintjes abandons
Such terrible luck for the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider whose strong ride on the Altu d'El Gamoniteiru yesterday saw Meintjes rise into the top 10. But that high-speed crash has ended his race just two days away from the finish. He was quickly put in a neck brace and onto a stretcher there so it must have been fairly serious.
43km: Crash! Meintjes and Knox down!
Oh no! There's been a touch of wheels in the peloton and Louis Meintjes and James Knox have gone down. The Briton is back on his way quickly but it doesn't look good for the South African, who is still laid out on the tarmac. The pace was really high with the chase fully on there.
45km: Less than a minute now for the break
DSM have reduced the gap to 58 seconds but still Brian Smith, in the Eurosport commentary box, thinks the power lies with the 11 leaders. "The opportunity is running away from BikeExchange," he says with regards to Michael Matthews' chances. Which is odd because we still have quite a way to go.
50km: 11 riders now clear
Simmons, Touzé, Padun, Kron, Roux, Soto, Craddock, Cort, Bagioli and Denz manage to bridge over to Oliveira on the front of this race. The others - Vine, Cherel, Sanchez, Amezqueta, Aru, Polanc and Stannard - are going to be soon swept up by the peloton, which is still being driven by DSM and is only 1:10 in arrears.
60km: Oliveira blasts clear
The Portuguese rolls off the front of this break to open a small gap going through a stretch of road where soigneurs are dishing out bidons. This is an interesting move and, for now, there's no response from the other escapees.
65km: Bagioli piling on the pressure
The Italian youngster has opened up a small gap ahead of the breakaway as they rampage through the city of Lugo. It wasn't an intentional attack but simply a sign of his power. DSM still do all the work behind as the gap remains around the 1:30 mark. Meanwhile, the green jersey gruppetto of Fabio Jakobsen is over 10 minutes behind now...
68km: Pace high as gap tumbles
The average pace is up to 41kph after a very fast segment since the feedzone. Such is the pressure from behind that even the breakaway is starting to fragment a little. The pack is now just 1:25 behind so it looks to be curtains for these 18 riders.
80km: Team DSM go all-in for Dainese
Even the polka dot jersey Michael Storer is helping drive the pace on the front of the pack as DSM managed to reduce the gap to 2:10 for this 18-man move. Of course, they still have Denz in that move, and the German is quite a fast finisher should they go the distance... so they do have options. But you sense that a victory for their young Italian Alberto Dainese would be the best scenario given how close he has come in previous sprints.
A reminder of who's here in the break: Mikael Cherel and Damien Touze (AG2R-Citroen), Mark Padun (Bahrain-Victorious), Nico Denz (Team DSM), Antonio Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Lawson Craddock and Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-Nippo), Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), Robert Stannard (Team BikeEchange), Fabio Aru (Team Qhubeka NextHash), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Rui Oliveira and Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates).
Meanwhile, here's Brian Smith talking about Movistar...
90km: Slight split in the peloton
The peloton split in two after the feedzone and Arnaud Demare - the Groupama-FDJ rider who was in the breakaway initially - was one to miss out. But the two factions will soon get back together. Groupama are one of many teams not to pick up a win so far in this race, with Demare very much below his best - constantly outkicked and badly positioned in the sprints, despite coming to the race with what looked to be a dedicated sprint train. Can the 30-year-old Frenchman turn things round today? First up, they will need to help bring that 18-man move to heel...
94km: Average pace is 39.1kph so far
After the feedzone the gap edges up to 2:45 for the leaders. DSM (for Dainese) and Jumbo-Visma (for their man in red, Roglic) are on the front of the peloton as they pick up musettes under the Galician sunshine. The Jakobsen green jersey group is still six minutes in arrears so very much out of the picture for today's stage win.
100km: Breakaway back together
Or perhaps not! Still, that increase in tempo following the split sees the advantage of the 18 leaders creep back up to around 2:15. The race is delicately poised as it enters its final 100km and - finally - the host broadcaster starts beaming out its live pictures to the world.
105km: Six riders go clear of break
With the peloton not giving the break any leeway, six riders have decided to take matters into their own hands by going clear on the front of the race: Baglioli, Cort, Roux and Stannard instigate the move, and they're joined by Kron and Vine. The gap is small but this could prove to be a decisive moment of the day...
115km: Team DSM chip in on the front
Usually so prevalent in the breakaways, Team DSM are now pulling on the front of the peloton through their domestique Thyman Arensman. They clearly think their sprinter Alberto Dainese stands a chance today - especially with Jakobsen already distanced and Cort, perhaps, counting himself out of the reckoning by getting in the break. The lead is down to 1:42 now.
Cort: 'I'll give it a try today'
Before today's stage, Magnus Cort said he was keen to try and complete his hat-trick of stage wins today despite feeling pretty zonked after two tough days in the Cantabrian mountains.
“I don’t have a lot [of energy left] but I think it’s the same for all the riders. We had two really hard mountain stages in the last two days. We’ll go and give it a try, and I will try my best today. Yesterday, for me, was all about saving the legs. It’s not easy on a course like we had yesterday but I tried to save a little bit for today, It’s a hard day. It could suit me. It’s very difficult to predict what would happen. We have a very hard start but then the rest is a little bit easier.”
So far, so good for the Dane. He's clearly the fastest finisher of this 18-man move but there's still a long way to go and the peloton is being led by Team BikeExchange who clearly haven't given up on a victory for their man Michael Matthews.
130km: Cherel takes the KOM points
It's an immaterial 5pts for Frenchman Mikael Cherel going over the top of the Alto de Barbeitos with the American Quinn Simmons in second and Spain's Antonio Soto in third. The gap back to the peloton is 1:55 and the green jersey group is now five minutes in arrears.
135km: Green jersey distanced
There'll be no more green jersey points - or a fourth stage win - for Fabio Jakobsen, who has been distanced on this third climb. The Dutch sprinter from Deceuninck-QuickStep battled to beat the time limit yesterday and he's now in a gruppetto around 2:30 behind the main peloton. The 18 leaders, meanwhile, have seen their advantage grow to almost two minutes.
It's going to be another difficult day for Jakobsen - but he should still take the green jersey home to complete what has been a magnificent comeback following that horrible life-threatening crash in last year's Tour de Pologne.
140km: Cat.2 Alto de Barbeitos
We're onto the third and final categorised climb of the day, which is 11.8km long at a gentle 3.8%. The early gradients are the hardest, rising to a maximum 7%, befpre the road really flattens out to a mere false flat before the final 5% to the summit. In short: this is certainly a big ring climb, even for someone like Arnaud Demare (although it's worth pointing out that the Frenchman is no longer in this breakaway having infiltrated its ranks earlier on).
148km: Modolo and Henao withdraw
Just two days from the finish of this Vuelta, Italy's Sacha Modolo (Alpecin-Fenix) and Colombia's Sergio Henao (Qhukeba-NextHash) have abandoned the race.
156km: Aru takes KOM points
It's the Italian - who retires in two days - who takes the 5pts over the top of the Garganta ahead of Baglioli and Vine. The break is down to 18 riders with a gap of 1:20 over the pack. They are: Cherel, Touze, Vine, Padun, Sanchez, Amezqueta, Bagioli, Craddock, Cort, Soto, Roux, Kron, Stannard, Denz, Aru, Simmons, Oliveira and Polanc.
A good stat here: that is the first time Fabio Aru has led a race over the top of a climb since Stage 5 of the 2017 Tour de France - the day he won in the Italian national champion's jersey at La Planche des Belles Filles. Can the 31-year-old roll back the years today?
Fabio Aru - Tour de France 2017 stage 5 - Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
160km: Three days to end Spanish drought
Well, two days, really, because I very much doubt anyone - certainly not a Spaniard - will be able to beat Primoz Roglic in the final time trial on Sunday...
This could be the first Vuelta since 1996 that no rider from the host nation has won a single stage - which explains the presence of Sanchez, Amezqueta and Soto in the break, and that duo Izagirre and Bizkarra in pursuit. What's more, Spain came out of both the Giro and Tour empty handed so if they don't pick up a win in these final days on the Vuelta then it will be the first time in history that there has not been a single Spanish stage winner in Grand Tours in the same year.
165km: Cat.2 Alto da Garganta
After that brief downhill respite it's back uphill with this 10.3km test which has an average gradient of 5.6%. We're still talking very fine margins here with the advantage under one minute - which explains a counter-attack from Spanish duo Ion Izagirre (Astana) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel) from the peloton. Can they bridge over and deliver some much-needed success to the host nation?
168km: Magnus Cort crests in pole
It's the moustachioed Danish powerhouse in pink who goes over the top of the first climb ahead of Fabio Aru and his EF teammate Lawson Craddock to take the 3pts he's clearly not interested in. It's now a short descent to the foot of the next categorised climb.
170km: Another trio try their luck
All the chasers have been caught so it's just those 24 riders up the road when Jesus Herrada has another pop, this time with Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) and Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM). Meanwhile, Patrick Gamper is the first to be distanced by the breakaway just ahead of the summit.
175km: Bardet-Pidcock move snuffed out
Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) made a bid to bridge over to the chasers on this climb but their attempt was neutralised by the peloton. Pidcock was many people's tip for the stage win today. As things stand, the favourites look to be Cort and Bagioli, perhaps Demare if he can get over all the lumps and bumps.
Here are your 24 escapees
Joining the original seven of Mikael Cherel and Damien Touze (AG2R-Citroen), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Aritz Bagues (Caja Rural-Seguros), Nico Denz (Team DSM), Mark Padun (Bahrain-Victorious) and Antonio Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi) are: Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH), Julen Amezqueta and Oier Lazkano (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Eddy Finé (Cofidis), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Lawson Craddock and Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-Nippo), Arnaud Démare and Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), Robert Stannard (Team BikeEchange), Fabio Aru (Team Qhubeka NextHash), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Rui Oliveira and Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates).
The chasers stuck in between are: Carlos Canal (Burgos-BH), Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel Euskadi), Andrey Zeits (Team BikeExchange) and Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM). Meanwhile, two more chancers have zipped clear of the pack in pursuit of those four chasers: Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation) .
Phew... that's a lot of names. Let's see if this settles or explodes on this climb, then.
178km: Cat.3 Alto de Sela de Entorcisa
It's the first of three categorised climbs which is 9.9km long at 3.9%. With no one from the polka dot standings in this move, this plays into the hands of Team DSM duo Michael Storer and Romain Bardet, who will look to protect their polka dots from Primoz Roglic these next two days. The gap is 1:20 back to the peloton with a quartet of riders trying to bridge over in between.
182km: Huge group forms, Cort among them
That chase group has managed to join the leaders so we now have around 25 riders off the front as they approach the foot of the climb. Double stage winner Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) is tehre along with Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), Fabio Aru (Qhubeka-NextHash) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) - to name but a handful.
188km: Seven clear ahead of first climb
The first action came from a quartet featuring Mikael Cherel (AG2R-Citroen), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Aritz Bagues (Caja Rural-Seguros) and Nico Denz (Team DSM). They were soon joined by a trio of Damien Touze (AG2R-Citroen), Mark Padun (Bahrain-Victorious) and Antonio Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi). This move has a small gap over a large chase group with many attacks coming thick and fast from the peloton.
191.2km to go: Stage 19 under way
Right - let's get this started! We have 148 riders remaining in the race after two riders failed to finish yesterday - Spaniards Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) and Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) - while Britain's Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal) finished outside the time limit on the gruelling Gamoniteiru.
Can Roglic still win green and polka dot jerseys?
It's unlikely but still mathematically possible that Slovenia's Primoz Roglic can catch Fabio Jakobsen for the green jersey and pip Team DSM pair Michael Storer and Romain Bardet for the polka dots... although at this stage in the race, you'd think he'd settle for a third successive red jersey crown.
Good morning and welcome to live coverage of today's antepenultimate stage of La Vuelta. Three lower-category climbs spice up the opening half of this 191.2km run over rolling roads between Asturias and Galicia. There's a flat finish but no guarantee this will be a sprint given the demanding terrain and the previous days' difficulties...
Stage 18 recap
A late attack on the gruelling double-digit ramps of the climb known as the Angliru’s evil sister saw Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez reel in Spain’s David de la Cruz before holding off the chase from the red jersey Primoz Roglic, teammate Enric Mas and the white jersey Egan Bernal.
‘Superman’ Lopez crossed the line on the cloud-capped summit of the highest paved road in the Cantabrian mountains in Asturias with a punch of the air as he secured his Movistar team their first stage win in this year’s Grand Tours. Slovenia’s Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) took second place 14 seconds in arrears after zipping clear of Spaniard Mas (Movistar) and Colombia’s Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) on the stinging 17% ramp in the last kilometre of the brutal final climb.
Bahrain Victorious duo Jack Haig and Gino Mader finished in a chase group alongside De la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) and Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) just under one minute behind, before Roglic’s teammate Sepp Kuss and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) completed the top 10 on what was arguably the queen stage of the race.
Despite missing out on back-to-back mountaintop wins, defending champion Roglic moved 2:30 clear of Mas in the general classification, with Lopez now 2:53 back in third place. Australia’s Haig retained his fourth place while Bernal moved into the top five after another difficult day for Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) saw the Frenchman drop four places to ninth.
Stage 18 highlights: Lopez wins in misty mountains as Roglic closes on third title
Is Sepp Kuss a future Grand Tour champion? Pundits disagree
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) is a future Grand Tour winner in the making”, according to 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins.
The American is playing second fiddle to Primoz Roglic at La Vuelta but still sits seventh in the general classification.
He took second behind Roglic on Wednesday’s stage on the Covadonga, even managing to share a brief smirk with the teammate as he wound up his sprint finish.
“I’m a big fan of Sepp. This guy is a future Grand Tour winner in the making," said Wiggins.
“I almost worry that he’s too nice. I think he loves it [a support role]. He’s got someone in Primoz Roglic that he’s going to learn so much from.
“But we’ve seen so many riders try to take that mantle of leadership and they don’t live up the performance that they did as a worker. And some people just excel riding for other people and I think he’s one of them.”
Sepp Kuss: Is Jumbo-Visma rider a future Grand Tour winner? Wiggins and Smith disagree
However, Brian Smith was keen to add a dose of realism to The Breakaway sofa and quickly dismissed the clamour.
“I’d love to see him win a Grand Tour but I don’t think he will,” said Smith.
“I don’t think he’s a leader, I think he’s a support person. It’s bit like Sean Yates – always wants to work on the front, be the first to put their hand up to do all the work. I don’t think he wants the limelight.
“He doesn’t have a good enough time trial, he’s certainly one of the best climbers in the pro peloton, but some of these riders get a lot of confidence from helping others and don’t want to do it themselves.”
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