Vuelta a Espana

Will Barta comes within one second of biggest win of career

Primož Roglič pipped Will Barta by slimmest of margins to regain the lead in decisive time trial at Vuelta a España.

Will Barta (CCC Team) came within one second of victory Tuesday in a result that could help him stay in the WorldTour.

With his CCC Team closing shop after the Vuelta a España, and his own racing future still uncertain, Barta uncorked an amazing performance in the 33.7km time trial along Spain’s wild Galician coastline. Battling through strong headwinds, Barta topped the early best time and enjoyed a nice stint in the Vuelta’s “hot seat.”

Intermediate time splits among the late-starting GC favorites seemed to suggest that Barta could be poised for the biggest win of his young racing career. Unfortunately for him, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) turned on the afterburners on the final, steep climb to the summit.

Roglič hit the 200-meter to-go sign with a fast time, and it came down to the final pedal strokes. When the clock stopped, Roglič won the stage in 46:39, just one tick of the second hand faster than Barta.

“I think if you had asked me yesterday if I would be happy with second place, I would have said that I would have been ecstatic about it but when, in the end, it’s by just one second, it’s obviously a bit disappointing,” Barta said. “However, overall, I am happy with my effort and I don’t think that there is anything else that I could really have done.”

Being oh-so-close to a major WorldTour victory comes at a good time for Barta. It’s the best result for the 24-year-old since he joined the WorldTour in 2019, and it will help raise his profile in a late-hour bid to stay in the WorldTour. Barta said he’s had some contact with teams but has not yet signed a deal for 2021.

“This time trial was the biggest goal of my race,” Barta said. “I was really looking forward to it. It would have been super to win but, like I said, I’m happy with my performance. The first couple of days after the first rest day I wasn’t feeling super-good but thankfully the legs came around and I was able to show my strength today.”

Barta, who battled back from a leg injury in 2018, said the ride Tuesday sets the tone for what will be the team’s final week. CCC closes shop at the end of the Vuelta, with Circus-Wanty Gobert taking over the team’s WorldTour license in 2021.

“It’s a nice last week and we are still motivated to race for some good results,” Barta said. “I think there is a lot of room for the breakaways so hopefully we can find ourselves in there.”

Barta, racing in his second Vuelta start of his pro career, said he was saving his legs for the important test against the clock. With the GC stars sparring for the overall, Barta knew he had a good chance on the challenging route.

“I talked quite a bit with Marco [Pinotti, CCC Team’s head of performance] coming into the time trial about the power and pacing especially at the beginning as it was pretty flat but actually, with the headwind, it was challenging because there was never a point where you could really ease off the pedals,” Barta said.

“The final climb was just a wall really and so for the last kilometer or so going into that I tried to ease off slightly just to make sure I had something for that because it’s a really hard climb and, in fact, the final kilometer of it was pretty excruciating.”