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VUELTA’21: The First Rest Day Rant

The first nine stages as seen by Ed Hood

Vuelta a España Rest Day Rant #1: Ed Hood is missing the Spanish roadside and other Iberian entertainments, but he has been glued to his TV set to give us his Vuelta a España ‘Rest Day Rant’. The first nine stages with Ed.

The best of the first week

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Roglič starting the Vuelta’21 how he finished the Vuelta’20 – In red

STAGE ONE:
The question is; ‘would a man whose sporting career used to consist of throwing himself off a steep ramp to fly through the air down a mountain side landing many metres further on and far below at high speed be afraid of a technical parcours in a bike race?’ Primoz Roglič answered that one in emphatic fashion around the streets of Burgos on Saturday evening, putting six seconds into Astana’s Spanish kamikaze pilot, Alex Aranburu who took all the risks on a tricky parcours which tested a rider’s climbing, descending, bike handling and nerve.

Stage 1 on board cameras

It was hard not to feel sympathy for the Spaniard though, emptied out of the ‘hot seat’ at the last possible moment. But the night belonged to the Slovenian, supremely relaxed before his appointment with the time keeper it’s already looking if the bookies have it right with the 11/10 odds they’ve laid on him.

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Unlucky Aranburu

And first glimpse of that ‘Olympic gold stuff’ on his kit and Cervelo. The black and gold Cervelo and crash hat are fine but the gold bands to the track mitts and overshoes are veering into ‘tacky’ territory and we’re a little surprised that those nice folks at the International Olympic Committee haven’t said anything about the use of the ‘Olympic rings,’ they guard their trademark jealously but perhaps that’s just if all the Olympic colours are employed? The Primoz hoops are in white.

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Not too much gold

And it would have been so nice to be strolling the warm streets of Burgos on a Saturday evening with notebook in pocket, camera over the shoulder, a copy of the start sheet to hand, dodging in and out of the bars which took a man’s fancy. We can dream. . .

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Burgos has a PEZ bar

Hot, flat and a mass charge for Sunday then?

Stage 1 red jersey minute:

 

STAGE TWO:
I got that one right, with Philipsen the quickest on a long hot day in the saddle; The Scheldeprijs, two stages in Turkey, six Tour de France podiums and now a Vuelta stage – not a bad season then?

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Stage win for Philipsen

And there are more sprint stages to come, however I think the man who was second, Fabio Jakobsen will have his day before this race is over – so nice to see the man back after that horror crash in Poland. Whilst one can’t say that Arnaud Démare is having a nightmare season, not with eight UCi wins BUT, French and Spanish minor stage races are one thing, Grand Tours are another. And the thing with sprinters is that it’s as much in the head as in the legs – when we saw Cav take that first win in le Tour, we knew more would follow. But Arnaud’s 14th place won’t have done his state of mind much good.

Stage 2 last K:

 

STAGE THREE:
I was looking forward to the Intermarche – Wanty – Gobert Materiaux press release to see what they had say about their man Rein’s magnificent win atop Picon Blanco but the Vuelta’s official release arrived first: INDESTRUCTIBLE TAARAMÄE IS STILL A TRAILBLAZER.

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INDESTRUCTIBLE TAARAMÄE

Yes, that’ll do nicely, it’s 10 years since the tough Estonian won on another horror climb, La Farrapona in the Cantabrian Mountains. The stage win AND the red jersey – not a bad day then? I’ve been a ‘Wanty Man’ for years now, they don’t always win but they RACE. The team’s roots go back to 2009 and Willems Verandas, old school Belgian, not too concerned about fancy, aero time trial bikes, more interested in getting men up the road and tearing races apart. It was great to see them getting a fine win like this.

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Rein will have his day in the sun tomorrow on a ‘sprint stage’ but we all know that at the end of the ‘Way of Saint James’ in Santiago de Compostella three weeks hence he won’t be in red – but Wanty would be happy with a top 20 on GC.

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Roglič not losing much time

And what of said GC race? Primoz Roglic was right there in the little group of ‘Bigs’ @ 1:48 with Lopez, Yates, Landa, Ciccone Bernal and that remarkable man, Alejandro Valverde who’s now 41 years-old. Fabio Aru was just off the pace but at just 31 year-of-age and hot off second spots on GC in the Sibiu Tour in Romania and the Vuelta a Burgos he may reconsider his decision to, ‘throw a bag over it’ – as my amigo Dave terms retirement – after this Vuelta?

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Carapaz in gold

But what of third favourite, Richard Carapaz who dropped a minute on the little group of favourites? If you’ve ever seen the spoof movie; ‘I’m Gonna Git you Sucka’ you’ll remember that folks are dying due to ‘OG’‘over golding’, wearing too many gold chains – could it be that his bling Pinarello has given him ‘OG’? Spray that sucka black, quick, Dude.

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over golding?

To add to his woes, he was slapped with a 20 second ‘illegal feed’ penalty and now sits at 1:45 on Roglič – after just three stages. Tomorrow should be for the sprinters but that won’t stop the breakaway boys. . .

Stage 3 highlights:

 

STAGE FOUR:
If you listened carefully to Fabio Jakobsen being interviewed after Stage Two where he was pipped by Philipsen then you you’ll have observed that whilst there was disappointment, there was certainly no despondency. This was a man who knew he has the form to win and was biding his time. So it proved today, taking his third Vuelta stage win to add to the two he won in 2019.

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Back with a bang

He’s won two stages in the Tour de Wallonie this year, but this was his first World Tour win since that horror crash in Poland last year. His still has the nerve, that’s for sure, this was a tricky finale, not for the faint of heart. To see him on social media, in the green jersey of points leader ‘Face Timing’ his grandfather was a tonic.

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Vuelta stage win No.3 for Jakobsen

Démare’s second place will have done his head no harm and it won’t have escaped his attention that Stage Five is another one for the sprinters – if only he had Deceuninck – Quick-Step leading him out. . .

Echelons tomorrow?

Stage 4 emotions:

 

STAGE FIVE:
No echelons but we still managed a bad crash with Rein’s reign in red foreshortened by being caught up in a mass decking along with the man whose only luck right now is bad luck, Roman Bardet; Taaramäe shed two minutes, Bardet 12 minutes.

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Taaramäe looking good in red, until…

At the ‘sharp end’ it was Philipsen taking the score to 2:1 over Jakobsen and taking the green jersey by one point. Would the result have been different if Jakobsen’s ‘pilot fish,’ big Florian Senechal hadn’t been involved in aforementioned mass decking? We’ll never know.

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Why didn’t the team wait?

Philipsen was one of Axel Merck’s boys at Hagen Berman Axeon in 2018 and was one of Belgium’s ‘next big things’ with wins in major u23 races, Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux, where he won two stages and the GC, a stage in the Baby Giro and a stage in the Tour of Utah. UAE snapped him up for 2019 and he got off to great start for them with a stage win, ‘Down Under’. The rest of the season saw many top placings but no more wins; 2020 did though, with stage wins in Limousin, Binckbank and the big one, the Vuelta. Surprisingly, he jumped ship on UAE and came to Alpecin-Fenix for this season – but he does have nice hair. . .

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Another stage for Philipsen

It’s been a good move taking out the race they call, ‘the sprinters’ world championships’, the Scheldeprijs – albeit Stage 21 of le Tour lays claim to that title too – two stage wins in Turkey, no less than six top three finishes in le Tour and now two Vuelta stages. It’s easy to forget that Alpecin Fenix aren’t actually World Tour, they’re what we used to refer to as ‘Division Two’, now ‘ProTeam’ but with riders like MVDP, Tim Merlier and Philipsen organisers are clamouring for them – Stage Five was the team’s 24th victory of the year, not bad for a Div 2 team. . .

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It was a close sprint

No mass charge tomorrow with a two K killer ascent to line but the intermediate sprint will be fun as Fabio scrabbles for those vital two points.

Stage 5 last K:

 

STAGE SIX:
‘CORT NIELSEN RESISTS ROGLIC, ELISSONDE DOESN’T,’ whoever writes the headlines for the Vuelta press releases is doing a good job – a good summation of the stage in one sentence. Those Danes, they get everywhere, the top step of semi-classics [Pedersen, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne], Monuments [Asgreen, de Ronde] and Olympic Games [Mørkøv & Norman] podiums; and just one step lower on the Tour de France rostrum [Vingegaard] – a total of 71 UCi podiums including 23 wins. Impressive.

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Cort has it

But let’s go back to the spring, March 7th to be exact, Paris-Nice, ‘The Race to the Sun’, Stage Seven Le Broc to Valdeblore La Colmiane and young Suisse, Gino Mäder looks set to win his first WorldTour race after an epic breakaway – but with the prize within his grasp a whirlwind from Slovenia swirls past to deny him. Many were the comments from the pundits that it would have been bigger and better of Primoz to let the Bahrain man be victorious. But karma is a funny old thing and next day the Slovenian ended up on the tar not once but twice dropping from race lead to a final 15th on GC.

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Roglič back in red

And here’s the $64,000 question, as Roglič closed down Cort at the top of the Alto de la Montana de Cullera did a little voice whisper to him and remind about that day back in March and what happened next day? Did he let those watts slip, just a little then? Answers on a postcard please.

Stage 6 highlights:

 

STAGE SEVEN:
Scotland doesn’t win too many Grand Tour stages these days, not since David Millar retired but we’re claiming a slice of this one. Michael Storrer’s girlfriend studies at Glasgow University and the man has trained, raced and won in ‘Auld Scotia’, we like to think that those ‘lang Scots miles’ – an ‘English mile’ was and still is 1760 yards whilst one of our Scots miles was 1984 yards – helped him to his fine win atop Balcón de Alicante.

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A stunning finalé from Michael Storrer

Young DSM Aussie, Storrer is coming along nicely, just last month he won the last stage and GC in the UCi Tour de l’Ain. We had thought that this may be another day when the Danes brought home the bacon, our spies on the Kattegat told us that this was a stage that young Andreas Kron [Lotto Soudal] was targeting. The 23 year-old – who PEZ has seen in action of the boards at Ballerup Super Arena in the Copenhagen Six Day on several occasions – was there in the break of the day but eighth was the final verdict. He has a red ring round another stage but we can’t divulge which one – and the man isn’t pipe dreaming remember that he’s won stages in Catalonia and Switzerland this season already.

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Valverde about to crash out of la Vuelta

It was sad to see Alejandro Valverde crashing out; but is it that karma stuff again? Perhaps the Cycling Gods are telling him that perhaps 20 seasons is enough? And we also lost the man who was third in this race last year, Hugh Carthy [EF & GB]. The form was there with a win on the last stage of Burgos but his DNF brings into question the question of whether a skinny, frail climber can handle two Grand Tours in the same season; Carthy finished eighth in the Giro? The demands are not merely physical, the expectation and pressure upon a team leader in a Grand Tour is extreme and not something every rider can handle.

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One GT a year for Robert Millar

If our own Robert Millar rode the Vuelta or Giro ‘back in the day’, prior to the Tour and returned his usual excellent result then his Tour would suffer.

Tomorrow? The break will go but will almost certainly be hunted down mercilessly by Deceuninck, Alpecin-Fenix and FDJ – it’s 2:1 to Jasper right now, can Fabio level the score?

Stage 7 highlights:

 

STAGE EIGHT:
That’s a ‘yes’ then – as Fabio makes it ‘two all’, and goes green again. And in the mind games of contract negotiations the Dutchman’s second victory in this race strengthens Patrick Lefevere’s position with Cav. Sure, Cav is ‘back’ but if he leaves Deceuninck whilst there may be more Euros available elsewhere, Michael Mørkøv won’t be there for him in the last K and besides, Patrick has the resurgent Fabio – and perhaps a certain Elia Viviani? Mr. Lefevere isn’t head of the best team on the planet because he doesn’t know how to negotiate.

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Jakobsen’s turn for the win

A sprint was inevitable on this day but good to see Burgos, Caja Rural and Euskaltel ‘honouring the race’ and grabbing that crucial TV time. Today was an easy day for the GC guys but tomorrow it ‘gets real’ again with a 13 kilometre climb including ramps of 15% to the finish. Gruppetto!

Stage 8 on board:

 

STAGE NINE:
‘Gallus’, a Scottish word meaning bold to the point of brazenness, Damiano Caruso [Bahrain Victorious] has the quality in spades, the race press release summed it up;
‘The Italian climber was part of the breakaway that only emerged after 90km of battle.
And he went solo on the slopes of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa with 71km to eventually fend off the GC contenders on the final climb of the day.’
Gallus indeed. His ‘exploit’ – as the French say also gained him leadership in the mountains classement.

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Caruso ‘gallus’

A good day too for his Aussie team mate, Jack Haig who took fourth on the stage and moved up to fourth on GC. So a good day all round for Bahrain Victorious? Yes and no, team ‘Capo’ ‘Mickey’ Landa had another of his bad days and we were reminded that the UCi 2.Pro Vuelta a Burgos – which he won – isn’t a WorldTour Grand Tour.

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Landa…

A good day for Movistar who avoided their usual tactical mess with Enric Mas – looking again like the young Deceuninck rider who lit up the 2018 Tour of the Basque Country and took second in the Vuelta that year – taking third on the stage and moving up to second on GC.

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Mas was looking like the rider he used to be

‘Superman’ López was fifth on the stage and moves on to the ‘virtual’ podium in third spot. Instead of a Movistar blunderfest it was INEOS burning up vast quantities of watts for very little return; Bernal moved up from sixth to fifth but that was only due to the collapse of some of those in front of him. His desperate yo-yoing off the back of the group on the finish climb didn’t remind us of the man who cruised to Giro victory
Yates moved up too, into sixth spot but his repeated attacks in the final were easily countered by the Movistars and the man in red.

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2nd in the Giro and top stage win in the Vuelta for Caruro

Carapaz, the third prong in the INEOS ‘trident’ now languishes at 10 minutes plus, not a great day for them, albeit their young Spaniard, Carlos Rodriguez won Stage Nine of the Tour de l’Avenir today and narrowly missed the GC win.

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Roglič holding onto the red

The race began with Roglič in red and ends with him back in red and looking every inch a winner of this race in two weeks time. Rest day tomorrow, the laptop will welcome the rest, ciao, ciao.

Stage 9 on board:

 

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 9:
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma in 34:18:53
2. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 0:28
3. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar at 1:21
4. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious at 1:42
5. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:52
6. Adam Yates (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 2:07
7. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 2:39
8. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma at 2:40
9. Felix Großsschartner (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 3:25
10. David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 3:55
11. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech
12. Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious at 4:00
13. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 4:05
14. Fabio Aru (Ita) Qhubeka NextHash at 4:36
15. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 5:35
16. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 5:47
17. Juan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 5:52
18. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 7:40
19. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 9:10
20. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 9:39
21. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 10:57
22. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 11:24
23. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis at 18:09
24. Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar at 20:14
25. Rafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates at 21:14.

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