Vuelta Stage Report: Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Philippe Gilbert won the twelfth stage of the Vuelta a España with a bold move in the final kilometres. Gilbert was part of a large escape group, the ex-World champion attacked on the steep Alto de Arraiz to solo to the stage victory in Bilbao. The peloton split with the top GC men finishing a couple of minutes after the Belgian for no changes in the overall.
The perfect course for Philippe Gilbert
Stage 12 Route with Joaquim Rodríguez – Circuito de Navarra > Bilbao 171.4 km:
A very pretty stage, especially the final part. A string of three 3rd category climbs: short, steep and very close together, they will bring excitement to a stage finish that is expected to be highly dramatic, and where we will be enveloped by the Basque Country’s unrivalled love of cycling.
Overall leader, Primoz Roglic, was popular at the start
Stage 12 started from the Circuito de Navarra motor racing track
After Euskadi-Murias’ surprising victory by Mikel Iturria in Urdax, not far from the Basque border, Wednesday’s stage was going to be special for the ProContinental Basque team. Stage 12 finished in the industrial and economic centre of the Basque Country: the cycling city of Bilbao.
The race was neutralised on the motor circuit
A good day for a break and everyone wanted to be in it
A fast and furious start for a furious stage
The stage promised to be difficult, with successive climbs of the Alto de Urruztimendi, the Alto el Vivero and the Alto de Arraiz in the last 40 kilometres. The winning move was bound to come on the very steep Arraiz, with ramps of up to 25%. First there was a furious start to the stage, as several teams tried to set up the early break.
Burgos-BH also wanted in the break
As expected Euskadi-Murias was one of the active teams, but also Groupama-FDJ, Katusha-Alpecin, CCC and Ineos were attacking before the first climb of the day. No one succeeded and the peloton was together at the start of the Alto de Azazeta (4.9km at 3.9%). After a good ten minutes of climbing, Sergio Henao was the first to the summit, the Colombian took three points in the battle for the KOM jersey.
It was a course made for Philippe Gilbert
On the descent of the Azazeta, 22 riders managed to get away from the peloton, but this did not last long. After 100 kilometres there was still no ‘Break of the Day’, although Philippe Gilbert tried to initiate an escape, but every time the aggressive Belgian looked around his shoulder, he saw the peloton on his tail. Most teams saw the Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s classic specialist as the main danger, but it was Willie Smit who was the rider to gain a gap on the peloton. The South African from Katusha-Alpecin was quickly joined by 18 other hopeful riders.
Eventually the winning break formed
The leading group consisted of: Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Tsgaby Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott), Tim Declercq and Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Valerio Conti and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), Manual Boaro (Astana), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Fernando Barcelo and Cyril Barthe (Euskadi-Murias), John Degenkolb and Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida), Jonathan Lastra and Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Willie Smit (Katusha-Alpecin) and Francisco Ventoso (CCC).
The peloton finally decided to take a nature break, which allowed the leading group to move ahead. Gilbert, Felix Großschartner, Tosh Van der Sande, Alex Aranburu and Nikas Arndt were the favourites for the stage win. The 22 leaders had more than 5 minutes on the Alto de Urruztimendi (2.5 km at 9.2%).
Gesink lifted the speed for the peloton
On the Urruztimendi – with ramps of up to 16% – the pace increased in the leading group, but the peloton sped up due to Robert Gesink for overall leader Primož Roglič. For many riders it was still too far out for a final attack, but this did not apply to Jonathan Lastra. The Spaniard – second yesterday in Urdax – rode away on the descent of the Urruztimendi.
Tosh Van der Sande was one of the strong-men in the front group
An Austrian and Ethiopian on the attack
The Caja Rural-Seguros RGA rider turned out to be an ideal target for Großschartner. The strong Austrian didn’t stay on Lastra’s wheel for too long. The Bora-Hansgrohe climber attacked the slope of the Alto el Vivero (4.3 km at 7.7%), but Großschartner was joined by the Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay before the summit.
The others in the escape group couldn’t seem to keep the duo under control. The difference between the two front riders and the pursuers fluctuated for some time around 40 seconds, but the battle was not over, with the climb of the Alto de Arraiz still to come. On the flat kilometres before the final climb, the chasing group – including Gilbert and Aranburu – managed to get closer.
A little bit of Basque rain wasn’t going to bother the Roubaix and Flanders winner
Großschartner and Grmay were still in the lead ahead of the daunting Arraiz (2.4km at 12.2%), but the difference was now less than 5 seconds. We were waiting for the first real attack, but the front riders clearly had respect for the particularly steep climb. At 1.7 kilometres from the summit it was Philippe Gilbert who made the decisive jump with two Spaniards trying to hold his wheel.
The big move from the Belgian
Gilbert wasn’t going to be caught
The Belgian looked behind him for a moment and saw the pained faces of Fernando Barceló and Alex Aranburu. Aranuru was immediately in trouble as Barceló briefly hoped to give his team Euskadi-Murias a second stage win in a row, but the promising climber proved unable to follow the experienced Gilbert. The former world champion continued solo, but still had 8 kilometres to go to the finish-line in Bilbao.
Gilbert held off the chasers
Strong Gilbert solos to victory
The 37-year-old continued to dance on the pedals to expand his lead and cross the Arraiz summit 20 seconds before Aranburu and Barceló. The win looked to be Gilberts, but the Spanish pursuers were working very well together on the final descent and the difference was getting smaller.
A hard fought, but well deserved win for Gilbert
With only 2 kilometres to go, the lead was only 5 seconds, but Aranburu and Barceló had used up all their energy. As a result, Gilbert’s lead increased a little and so the Belgian multi-champion had a few hundred meters to celebrate his victory. Aranburu had to settle for second again, while Barceló was third.
Aranburu second again, Barceló third
The sprint for 6th place was taken by Tosh van der Sande
The top men finished in a depleted group
Stage winner, Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step): “It’s a nice one because it’s been a really hard La Vuelta until now. I didn’t have many chances to win. Today it was a long fight to get in the breakaway. There have been dozens and dozens of attacks. It was incredible. I must have attacked 20 times myself. It was really intense and painful. There were good climbers with me so I wasn’t really confident. I tried to race smart and I received some great help from my teammate Tim Declercq. He is a big part of this win and he deserves it as much as I do. The final climbs were a bit like the Ardennes. I like this kind of short effort, I’m able to be among the best when it’s under 10 minutes of climbing. It’s also special because it’s my 10th stage victory on a Grand Tour and that makes a nice number. The atmosphere in the last climb was crazy. It felt like a classic, with all the flags and the crowds. It gave me a lot of motivation. The Basque Country is a bit like Flanders, they love cycling and it’s nice.”
Vuelta a España Stage 12 Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick Step at 3:48:18
2. Alex Aranburu (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:03
3. Fernando Barceló (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
4. José Joaquín Rojas (Spa) Movistar at 0:22
5. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Sunweb at 0:26
6. Tosh Van der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:29
7. Cyril Barthe (Fra) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
8. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana
9. Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10. Valerio Conti UAE Team Emirates at 0:31
11. Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 1:05
12. Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
13. Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Mitchelton-Scott
14. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 2:27
15. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 3:02
16. Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
17. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
18. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
19. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
20. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB) Ineos
21. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis
22. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
23. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
24. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
25. Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 12:
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma in 44:52:08
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1:52
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana at 2:11
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:00
5. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 3:05
6. Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal at 4:59
7. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 5:42
8. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis at 5:49
9. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida at 6:07
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 6:25
11. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida at 8:44
12. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 9:06
13. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma at 10:21
14. Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First
15. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott at 10:47
16. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana at 12:53
17. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 14:13
18. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 15:17
19. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 16:08
20. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin at 16:54
21. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 18:16
22. Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ at 19:03
23. Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 21:00
24. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First at 21:54
25. Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 23:24.