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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 19 preview: Complicated stage for GC riders seeking opportunity

Stage profile less than ideal for those trying to distance Remco Evenepoel.

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Remco Evenepoel made a big statement on Thursday’s stage of the Vuelta a España, winning while in the red jersey of race leader, and will take additional encouragement from the profile of stage 19 of the race.

The 138.3 kilometer stage both starts and finishes in the city of Talavera de la Reina and comprises two laps of a large circuit taking in the Puerto del Piélago.

The climb will doubtlessly be the scene of attacks by Evenepoel’s challengers but given that he was never under real pressure on Thursday’s stage, it is difficult to see their efforts bear fruit. Their task is made harder again by the fact that the category two ascent is just 9.3 km in length and 5.6 percent average gradient, a climb he is unlikely to fear.

A further complication for would-be attackers is the long distance from the top of the mountain to the finish, with 42.2 largely downhill kilometers taking the riders to the line.

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Closest challenger Enric Mas (Movistar Team) finds himself 2:07 behind and needing a dramatic change in fortunes to have a chance of winning overall. He was runner-up in the Vuelta in 2018 and again last year and appears destined to once again finish second-best in the race.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s stage, Mas insisted that Friday’s race could ‘create differences’ and pledged to keep trying.

However he will very much wish that there was a steep final climb, with only Saturday’s race to Puerto de Navacerrada offering him something approaching what he needs.

Realistically, unless Evenepoel cracks, crashes, becomes ill or has a completely ill-timed mechanical issue, it seems very difficult for Mas to find the time he requires.

Still, he’ll do what he can on Friday. So too Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), the rider in third overall, although his five-minute-plus deficit to Evenepoel is surely impossible to close.

Look out for another breakaway to launch early and try to hold off the GC riders, and for others in the top 10 to try to salvage something from their race if the day’s move doesn’t stay clear.

Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) is one of those who will be trying, with the Australian saying on Thursday that he has two more days to land the stage victory he is seeking.