The San Martín mountain pass will await the peloton 16.6 kilometers from the finish line. It’s a short ascent with very tough slopes that might result in important differences to the general classification. If the leaders lose their concentration, even for a second, we could see some surprises.
Stage 19: De Gendt wins; Contador's ambush snuffed
The Vuelta a España offered one final opportunity for the breakaway and perennial escape artist Thomas De Gendt took full advantage, winning stage 19 in Gijon, Spain Friday. The Lotto-Soudal rider held off Trek-Segafredo’s Jarlinson Pantano; Bahrain-Merida’s Ivan Garcia was third in the sprint.
As he’s been doing throughout the Vuelta, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) went on the attack to gain time in the overall. Though he linked up with Edward Theuns at the top of the final climb in the 149.7km stage, the duo couldn’t hold off the peloton. Chris Froome (Sky) kept his overall lead, 1:37 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) clung to his third-place standing, just two seconds ahead of Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin.
Stage 19, top 10
1. Thomas De Gendt (BEL/LOT), in 3h35:46.
2. Jarlinson Pantano (COL/TRE), at 0:00.
3. Iván García (ESP/BAH) 0:00.
4. Rui Costa (POR/EAU) 0:00.
5. Floris De Tier (BEL/LNL) 0:00.
6. Bob Jungels (LUX/QST) 0:00.
7. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:00.
8. Nicolas Roche (IRL/BMC) 0:00.
9. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 0:00.
10. Koen Bouwman (NED/LNL) 0:45.
1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky), in 75h51:51.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH), at 1:37.
3. Wilco Kelderman (NED/SUN) 2:17.
4. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 2:29.
5. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 3:34.
6. Miguel Ángel López (COL/AST) 5:16.
7. Michael Woods (CAN/CAN) 6:33.
8. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 6:33.
9. Wouter Poels (NED/SKY) 6:47.
10. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 10:26.
With the victory, De Gendt is now a stage winner in all three grand tours. It was also the the fourth win in this Vuelta for his Belgian Lotto-Soudal team. “I didn’t expect it to be this year. I was not feeling well in the first week,” De Gendt said, admitting he doubted his chances at collecting a Vuelta victory.
Though he settled for third place, Garcia was the star of the stage, attacking alone before the final categorized climb. He went over the top of Alto de San Martin first, but Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet was right behind.
Those two linked up for the descent, and soon Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Stephen Roche (BMC) bridged up to make it a lead group of four.
Thanks in large part to Bob Jungels (Quick-Step), a larger chase group chased down the four leaders just before the final two kilometers.
“It was not really my parcours, but I had a good group with Bob Jungels, and he was pulling really hard to pull the four riders back,” said De Gendt.
Garcia led-out the sprint, but his jump was a bit too early. De Gendt was quick to respond and won the finish handily.
“Those guys started attacking and we had a big group,” De Gendt added. “I didn’t really believe much in my chances but in the final kilometer we came back together.
“I had to do the sprint of my life. I’m really happy I can finish it off with a victory.”
Although none of the other GC contenders joined Contador on his ill-fated raid, they’ll all be champing at the bit Saturday in stage 20, the Vuelta’s final mountaintop finish. Although short at 117.5km, the finish on Alto de L’Angliru should be exceptionally challenging.
“I don’t think it’s going to be just about the final tomorrow,” Froome said. “It’s a very short stage — we could see fireworks from the start tomorrow.”
“It’ll be madness tomorrow,” agreed Contador. “Anything might happen.”