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With the overall battle still tied up with four riders within one minute of the lead, the peloton’s top riders were content to mark each other and keep their powder dry for Sunday’s assault of the fearsome Angliru.
“A thousand things can happen,” said Movistar’s Enric Mas of the Angliru. “It will be a short stage, but one that will leave its mark on this Vuelta.”
Some expected Saturday’s five-climb stage finishing atop the Farrapona climb to perhaps produce more fireworks than what lies await on the more famous Angliru. But with the bunch fearing the 20-percent grades on the Angliru so much, the peloton looked to be saving its matches.
Not to say Saturday’s stage was easy. An early break pulled clear to win the stage, and the GC group lined up behind the yellow jackets of race leader Primož Roglič. Jumbo-Visma massed at the front, putting five riders in the select GC group, and set such a steady pace that no one dared to move until the closing kilometer. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) jumped under the red kite, and gained 5 seconds for his efforts.
“It was quite hard today, and I think the others were thinking about saving something for tomorrow,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard, who pulled for 20km at the front on the final part of the stage. “We just kept the pace that I could hold for a long time, but nobody attacked. I think we also saved something for tomorrow. It will be a short stage Sunday, but it will be a hard stage.”
Roglič and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) start Sunday still tied on time. Despite a rider protest before the stage, the UCI stood by its decision to award time splits in the bunch that nudged Roglič into the leader’s jersey. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) led the bunch across the line Saturday to defend his podium spot at 25 seconds back, with Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Racing) still within range at 58 seconds adrift.
Poised in fifth at 1:58 back, Mas hopes to revive his podium ambitions Sunday.
“Considering where we are, and how the legs feel, I think we’re in a good position,” Mas said. “We’ll see how everyone reacts.”
The Angliru is back in the Vuelta for the eighth time in race history, and for the first time since 2017. That year, Alberto Contador won what was his final victory on his final climb in his final race.
Of this year’s crew of GC contenders in the t0p 5, only Martin and Carapaz have raced it. Martin was 11th in 2011, and Carapaz was 11th in 2017.
“I don’t know the climb. I saw some videos of it,” Roglič said. “It’s a super, super hard climb. I’ve never arrived to such a steep climb before. I think it will be one-on-one on the Angliru tomorrow.”