Sometimes the best comes to the ones who wait.
Just ask Jakob Fuglsang.
On Monday Fuglsang won the Vuelta a España’s 16th stage atop the hulking Alto de la Cubilla climb, the final hors categorie summit finish of this year’s race. The Dane timed his winning attack perfectly, showing restraint as he chose the ideal moment to surge away from breakaway companions Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) and Tao Geoghegan-Hart (Team Ineos) to take the win.
“At one point I looked back and saw Tao coming back to us and I was waiting, waiting, waiting, until he came close, because he did a big effort to come across,” Fuglsang said. “I went one time, full-gas, and luckily I could get rid of Brambila. Then it was about getting to the finish line.”
Behind, overnight leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) defended his lead on the stage, attacking alongside Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) in the final kilometers. Second place rider Alejandro Valverde was gapped in the final battle and ceded 23 seconds, but maintained his spot on the general classification.
“It was a hard day—really long last climb but in the end the team did a great job and again, a good day for us,” Roglic said. “The guys rode super fast and I was able to follow.”
The trio were the final survivors of the day’s 21-man breakaway that went early in the stage and survived the day’s mountainous terrain. The 144.kilometer route from Pravia to Alto de La Cubilla included two Category 1 climbs, before the hors categorie finish.
The final battle for the stage appeared to be between four different teams. Deceuninck-Quick Step had James Knox, Remi Cavagna, and Philippe Gilbert in the move; Astana had Fuglsang and Luis Leon Sanchez; Ineos had Geoghegan Hart; and Trek-Segafredo had Brambilla.
Sanchez opened the hostilities with 9km remaining, jumping away from the group as Cavagna pulled. His move drew out Brambila, Knox, and Geoghegan Hart, with Fuglsang tacking onto the back. The Dane was next to attack, leaping clear with 6km to go with Brambilla on his wheel.
Brambilla worked with Fuglsang to open the gap to Geoghegan Hart and Knox, and the duo appeared destined to ride to the finish together. And then Fuglsang kicked again with 4km to go, and that move stuck.
“[Team DS] told me and Luis that the last 7km were the easier ones of the climb, and it was about 10km to go and I said to [Sanchez] ‘OK, he should go,'” Fuglsang said. “Once I could see the others were lacking energy… I kept going.”
The victory marks an important milestone for the 34-year-old Fuglsang, who is enjoying the best season of his career with victories at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the overall win at the Criterium du Dauphine. Prior to Monday Fuglsang had 21 professional victories, however none of them were stage wins in a grand tour.
“It feels great,” Fuglsang said. “It was one of my goals coming here, but you know one thing is to have a goal and the other thing is to fulfill it.”