After the Jumbo-Visma captain bounded back into the red leader’s jersey on the steep ramps to Lagos de Covadonga, rivals are now jockeying for the second and third steps on the final podium Sunday in Galicia.
First in line? Movistar’s Enric Mas and Miguel Ángel López, and Bahrain Victorious captain Jack Haig. There are others bucking for the podium as well, but it looks to be a three-way battle for two seats.
“I was happy that I didn’t lose too much time, and I could consolidate my position,” said Haig at the line at Lagos de Covadonga. “The podium is still up for grabs.”
As expected, overnight leader Odd Kristian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Goubert) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) both faded under the beyond-steep ramps up to the rain-splattered Covadonga summit.
That opened up real estate at the top of the GC. With Roglič looking untouchable as he nears a third straight Vuelta crown, it’s going to be a dogfight for the final podium spots.
“We saved a very, very complicated day,” said Mas, who returned to second place, now 2:22 behind Roglič. “Miguel and [I] can be more or less happy with the stage. We’re still there, we arrived with the rest of the important riders all together, and we returned to second and third on GC, and we drew even on a very hard and important stage.”
Podium still wide open as Roglič takes charge at front
How does the GC stack up now?
Mas is 2:22 behind Roglič, and 49 seconds ahead of teammate López. Haig is fourth, 35 seconds behind López. Martin dropped to fifth at 4:16 back, while Egan Bernal and Adam Yates (both Ineos Grenadiers) are both more than two minutes behind third-place López.
The upshot is that the podium is still wide open, and anyone with a big ride Thursday up the Gamoniteiru summit can solidify their spot at the top of the charts going into the final weekend in Galicia.
“Everyone was going full-gas, at the front and in the chase, both to open a gap and to limit the differences,” López said. “It was up to two minutes [to Roglič and Bernal] and we brought it back down to 1:30 at the start of the climb, so that’s why everyone was on their knees in the final climb.
“There are still some important days and we’ll see how we get through it,” López said. “I don’t know how Enric and I will manage things tomorrow, but today we got through it pretty good, with both of us up front. Roglič pulled a big number today, and the rest of us are where we are behind him. Tomorrow’s another day, let’s see what happens.”
A podium would count for a lot
Even if Roglič looks more likely to win, especially with the final time trial in Santiago de Compostela on Sunday, a step on the final podium spot in Galicia in the Vuelta would be a big one for anyone who manages to reach it.
For Mas, who was second in the 2018 Vuelta, it would serve as confirmation of his grand tour potential. Since turning his focus to the Tour de France, he was fifth in 2020 and sixth in 2021, so a podium spot would be encouraging.
The same goes for López, who hit the Vuelta podium with third in 2018, the same year he finished third in the Giro d’Italia. López was poised for a podium in last year’s Tour, starting the final time trial in third, only to tumble to sixth.
Bernal and Yates are certainly not out of the picture, especially if one of them has great legs and the other falters on Gamoniteiru.
Haig — who’s only finished once in the top-20 in seven previous grand tour starts — vows to go down swinging.
At the start of the stage Wednesday, Haig was promising to swing for the fences.
“If there is an opportunity, then we’ll take it. I had a meeting with the guys this morning on the bus, and I said, finishing fifth, or seventh, or whatever is nice. I wouldn’t want to let the chance of getting on the podium slip through my hands without trying anything, so I’d like to try something, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or the next few days, so I can finish the race to say at least I tried.
“Primož is looking unbeatable, and he has that TT in the end,” Haig said five hours later at the end of the stage. “Those Movistar boys are looking pretty strong, so I will take it as it comes.”