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The win didn’t come easy. Breakaway expert Magnus Cort Nielsen survived the peloton’s surges, and the Danish rider chugged up the final steep pitch with the win at hand. Nielsen was within sight of the finish line when Roglič appeared from behind, and bolted from the group. The Slovenian dropped GC rival Enric Mas (Movistar) in the final push to the line, and crossed the line with three seconds on his closest competitor.
Here’s what the stars said after stage 11 of the 2021 Vuelta a España.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers): 9th, at :11
Egan Bernal rides in the white jersey of the best young rider. While this is not his nor his team’s ultimate goal, it’s a bit of a consolation for a Vuelta which has seen the systematic dismantling of the British team that had dominated grand tours for the better part of a decade.
With 10 stages remaining, including a final week suited to Bernal’s climbing strengths — save for a time trial on the penultimate stage — the Colombian who won the 2021 Giro d’Italia remains optimistic and succinct in his analysis of the remaining stages.
“It’s my first Vuelta, I have lots of time,” said Bernal.
Enric Mas (Movistar Team): 2nd, at :03
In the final 100m of the stage, Roglič dropped Mas with massive acceleration to take the stage win, and precious bonus seconds.
Mas remains the next best-placed rider after Roglič on the GC. Should Roglič falter, Mas wants to be the one to pick up the pieces.
“I’m so happy, but sincerely, and excuse my French, when I took that final turn left with 100 meters to go and saw that fucking ‘wall’, I put my head down and thought, ‘Ay, ay, ay… it’s not going to be today’. I had watched the video from ‘Purito’ winning here in 2015 (it was actually 2011 – ed.), but I don’t know what I saw – he was too fast or I wasn’t as fresh as he.”
Commenting on a small brush with the Slovenian at the base of the wall, at 1km out, Mas put to bed any notions of hostility between himself and the two-time Vuelta winner.
“That touch with Roglic? It’s just a race incident. He didn’t see me coming and I couldn’t brake there, because otherwise, he would have taken a couple of meters on me. It was either touching him or braking. When I saw him again after the finish, he apologized. Our relationship is good.”
Miguel Ángel López (Movistar Team): 3rd, at :05
López trails teammate Mas on the GC by 57 seconds. The two have tried to tag-team attacks on Roglič, but so far the Slovenian has proven to be the strongest.
On stage 11, López was right on his teammate’s wheels as numbers three, four, and five on the general classification — Roglič, Mas, and López — finished in places one through three on the stage. Should Mas falter, the GC hope of Movistar Team will fall on López.
“As I’ve said over this race, the most important thing is getting through these early hurdles safely, and we did really well today. This finish wasn’t as good for us as it was for Roglič, with this short, sharp ascent, and we still managed to get really close.”
“Thanks to the whole team for the great job they did,” López said. “We must stay focused, go one stage at a time – for the time being, it’s all good for us.”
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux): 10th, at :11
Eiking has found himself as the caretaker of the red jersey of the overall race leader after Roglic let him get nearly a quarter of an hour up the road on the previous stage.
The 26-year-old Norweigan seems a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities which accompany a grand tour leader, but seems willing to accept the challenge and the attention.
In his team’s inaugural year in the WorldTour, a better outcome could not have been planned.
“It feels like you can imagine, it feels really, really nice,” said Eiking. “It’s unbelievable to be leader of such a big race as La Vuelta,” Eiking said. “For sure it’s one of the greatest moments of my career. It’s a responsibility, but it’s actually also just a bonus for us in the team.”