VUELTA’20: First Rest Day Rant!

VUELTA’20: First Rest Day Rant!

vuelta20 castle

Vuelta Rest Day Rant: We now only have one Grand Tour to watch in this very strange 2020 season. Will the Vuelta a España follow the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia and fall to a ‘Young Gun’? Too soon to tell, but Ed Hood takes a different look at the ‘primera semana’ of the Spanish Tour.

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Has Primoz Roglič lost all chance of a Grand Tour win in 2020?

Have you ever messed up when it comes to ‘saving’ on a WORD document? I just did, three days of the Vuelta down the drain – c’est la vie. Let’s try again:

Stage One:
‘Nation of the day’, Slovenia. Roglič picks up where he left off with a stage win and the jersey; meanwhile, far to the east on the Italian Peninsula his compatriot Jan Tratnik did the biz for Tim Harris’s Bahrain-McLaren ‘ekipo’ – that’s ‘team’ in Slovenian, folks.

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Roglič – Top Slovenian?

At the last official census in 2002 this small country – which only achieved nationhood in 1991 after the breakup of Yugoslavia – had a population of just under 2,000,000 with an estimate now of just over that figure.

But they top the UCi individual rankings as of the latest updates:
1: Primoz Roglič 4,820 points
2: Tadej Pogačar 3,970
3: Wout Van Aert 2,706.

AND the national rankings:
1: Slovenia 10,437 points
2: France 9261
3: Belgium 8035.

Whilst I’m on a stats kick, the team rankings are:
1: Deceuninck QuickStep 8692 points [but Slovenian free] 2: UAE 8087 [Pogačar & Polanč] 3: Jumbo Visma [Roglič].

09-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa 04 Tain L'hermitage - Belley; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Bozic, Borut; Tain L'hermitage;
Borut Božič

I got to thinking about Slovenians I remember and/or have interviewed. There was Borut Božič, Vuelta stage winner and a lovely guy but who made a decision he’s lived to regret – and unless you were a pro in his era and circumstances, please remember, ‘judge not, lest ye be not judged.’ Then there was Andrej Hauptman who I never had the good fortune to speak to, but who gave the little nation her first Worlds medal in 2001 with bronze in the Elite road race in Lisbon.


Aldo Ino Ilesic

Aldo Ino Ilesic was a big sprinter I spoke to several times in his Team Type One days before he became US ‘crit King’ Daniel Holloway’s lead-out man. The last I heard Aldo was riding those mad Red Hook fixed gear, brakeless crits. And of course, there’s Pogačar, Roglič, Tratnik and big sprinter Luka Mezgec. A nation punching WAY above its weight.

Highlights of stage 1

 

Stage Two:
‘Town of the day,’ Pamplona, where Stage Two started, ending in Lekunberri, scene of Catalan, Marc Soler’s second UCi win of the year for home team, Movistar; that’s their only two wins of season 2020 – the Catalan took their first win too in Mallorca way back in February.

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Marc Soler – Movistar’s only 2020 winner

Pamplona, a town Ernest Hemingway loved to the point of obsession and made famous in his novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises’. And one I remember as the venue for the somewhat embarrassing 1996 ‘triumphant home coming’ of Spain’s greatest-ever GC rider, five time Tour de France winner, Navarra native, the great Miguel Indurain.

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‘Big Mig’ – Local Navarran

The only problem was that Bjarne Riis had dethroned him and ‘Big Mig’ entered the beautiful Basque City some eight minutes off the pace in a stage won by Laurent Dufaux [Festina] from Riis [Telekom], Richard Virenque [Festina], Jan Ulrich [Telekom] and Luc Leblanc [Polti]. Yes, there is a common denominator in those names and teams.

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A fine collection

When I look back I’m not really sure I believed what I was watching back then? Now, when I reminisce I feel embarrassed about my acceptance of preposterous performances; so when someone queries a ‘too good to be true’ ride I fully respect their right to do so, even though their disbelief may upset Chris Froome.

Flash summary stage 2

 

Stage Three:
Man of the day? Unquestionably, stage winner Dan Martin; giving Israel Start-Up Nation a Vuelta stage win to go with Alex Dowsett’s Giro masterpiece.Hands up, I didn’t include the man as ‘fave’ in my Vuelta preview but I should have noted that he placed fifth in the Flèche Wallone and 11th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race he won in 2013 but whose new final doesn’t now suit his characteristics.

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Vuelta stage 3 to Dan Martin

Martin did what all aspiring champions should do and picked his parents well. His father: Neil was a highly successful rider back in the 80’s with a win in the British Amateur Road Race Championship in 1984 as perhaps his most notable result. His mother, Maria is 1987 ‘triple crown’ winner, Stephen Roche’s sister – enough said. As a junior, Martin struggled to get recognition from British Cycling so took up Irish nationality, his mother coming from the Emerald Isle.

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With Tom Boonen in the Quick-Step ‘Classics’ team

British Cycling got that one wrong as Martin has gone on to win two Monuments – Liège and Lombardy – as well as Tour de France and Giro stages. He rode stagiaire for Team Slipstream in 2007 and has never looked back, going full pro with Garmin Chipotle in 2008 and sticking with Jonathan Vaughters’ teams for some eight season.

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Lombardia 2014

He spent two seasons, 2016/17 with the mighty Quick-Step team but Mr. Lefevere’s teams have never been GC rider oriented albeit Martin did deliver podiums in the Flèche and Liège.
His next jersey was the white of UAE where he spent two seasons before joining the Israeli team this year. I had thought his career was in decline but Birmingham’s top Irishman has proved me wrong. Can he make the final podium in this Vuelta? Stay tuned.

Stage 3 highlights

 

Stage Four:
Those Irish, they’re everywhere! Young UAE Team Emirates talent, Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen looked to have it won after going from a long ways out, but the man from the Emerald Isle – who was actually born in Flanders, his dad being a pro soccer player with Eendracht Wevik – closed him down like a bullet and snatched the honours for his seventh winners’ bouquet of the season and his eighth Grand Tour stage victory.

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Another for Sam Bennett and Ireland

On a parcours which lost altitude for most of the day this was always going to be a sprint stage. Any breakaway was doomed, there are so few stages for the fast men in this race that their teams guard jealously any opportunity.

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The Deceuninck – Quick-Step Vuelta line-up

Which brings us to our, ‘team of the day’ – the mighty Deceuninck – Quick-Step formation; despite the season being curtailed as it has, this was the Belgian team’s 39th success of the year. Their Vuelta line up mixes youth with huge experience.

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Andrea Bagioli

Andrea Bagioli is just 21 years-of age coming to the team from top Italian u23 squadra Colpack for whom he won the ‘World Tour shop window’ Ronde de l’Isard, a stage in the Valle d’Aosta and the Piccolo Lombardia. He’s already had his first high level wins with a stage in the Tour de l’Ain – where he beat no less a name than world number one, Primoz Roglic – and a stage in the Coppi e Bartali. Matteo Cattaneo on the other hand has a wealth of experience at 29 years-of-age, he was World Tour for four years with Lampre then stepped down a level to Gianni Savio’s pro continental Androni team but Mr. Lefevere does like a big strong rouleur and Matteo is back in the big league.

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Ian Garrison

Ian Garrison is only 22 year-of-age and comes from Axel Merckx’s top development team, Hagens Berman Axeon. He was second overall in another of the World Tour ‘shop window’ races, the UCi 2.2u Triptyque Monts et Chateaux in Belgium and is a time trial specialist, winning both the US 2019 u23 and Elite TT titles then going on to sliver in the u23 Worlds TT at Harrogate behind the phenomenon that is Mikkel Bjerg. And Mr. Lefevere likes those big, strong ‘chrono guys’ too – they’re perfect for closing down breaks.

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Top lead-out man in the business – Michael Mørkøv

Michael Mørkøv at 35 years-of-age needs little introduction, he’s seen and done it all and is one of the most accomplished and successful lead out men in the world. The pro’s pro. I hate to keep using the expression, but German, Jannik Steimle is another, ‘big strong boy’, he rode stagiaire for the team last season and promptly won the Championship of Flanders for them – that rather sealed the deal. This year he won a stage and the GC in the Tour of Slovakia; so as well as being a work horse, he’s a winner too.

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Zdenek Stybar

Zdenek Stybar has been a fixture of the team for a decade and is still winning – Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 both fell to him last year – he has huge experience. Then there’s perhaps the biggest and strongest of them all, French Chrono Champion, Remi Cavagna. He won the tough Faun Ardeche Classic back in February but isn’t primarily on the squad as a work horse – riding tempo endlessly.

Remi Cavagna
Remi Cavagna – no stranger to a Vuelta stage win

They lead the Giro for two weeks and already their stamp is upon this Vuelta. It’s unlikely they’ll end this Vuelta on just one stage win.

Flash summary stage 4

 

Stage Five:
And we’re talking ‘Dynasty of the day’, stage winner, Tim Wellens is as Belgian as frites and pintjes, he’s only ever ridden for that most Belgian of teams, Lotto [the Belgian State Lottery] – Soudal [a Belgian company and the largest independent European manufacturer of sealants, adhesives and polyurethane foams.] And he’s just signed with them for another two seasons, when he’ll still only be 31 years-old.

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Tim Wellens – As Flemish as they come

Originally an MTB man he’s graduated into a very good road rider; this Vuelta win adds to two stage wins in the Giro and stages in Paris-Nice, The Tour of Poland – where he’s won the GC, Ruta del Sol – where he’s also won the CG, Tour of Guangxi – another GC win, Tour of the Region Wallonie – and another GC win, Tour of Belgium and Eneco Tour – which he’s also won overall twice. On the one day front he’s won the Flèche Brabançonne and GP Cycliste de Montreal. Not a bad rider then?

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The late Paul Sherwen next to Leo Wellens, Tim’s dad – Tour de France 1981

But it was inevitable he’d be a professional bike rider. His father, Leo was a pro for eight years riding for Boule d’Or, Fangio [didn’t everyone in the 80’s?], Dries-Verandalux, Dormilon and Seur. He had stage wins in the Tour of Catalonia and Tour de l’Avenir; and rode and finished the 1981 Tour de France with a fourth place to Sean Kelly on Stage 15. His uncle, Leo’s brother, Johan was also a pro, spending three years in the peloton with Eurobow, Boule d’Or and Kotters. Johan also got round the ’81 Tour and that year won the not well known outside of Belgium but ‘cult’ race, Brussels-Ingooigem, a race that’s been running since 1945 and has been won by many of the greats – Sterckx, Van Springel, Roger De Vlaeminck, Sercu; and more recently by Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Demare.

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Paul Wellens in the 1981 Tour

But his other uncle, Paul is the most famous of the dynasty. He was a pro for a decade and more with Miko, Tonissteiner, Ariostea, Eorotex, Splendor, Boule d’Or, Frisol and Peter Post’s mighty Raleigh armada. He finished top 10 in the Tour de France on two occasions, winning two individual stages along the way – not counting TTT wins with the Raleigh squad – and won the Tour de Suisse overall. Tim’s brother, Yannick showed great promise as a novice, junior and u23 but never made the jump to professional. So it’s fair to say there would be a few pils down the hatch around Wellens dynasty TV sets on this day. . .

Stage 5 highlights

 

Stage Six:
The end of the first, albeit shortened week, and a man well used to the rain and gnarly roads of his native Basque Country takes the spoils. Ion Izagirre completes his ‘set’ of Giro Tour de France and now, Vuelta stage wins.

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Vuelta stage win for Ion

But let’s take a look at the ‘GC of the day’ with two weeks to go. Another hard man goes into red, Richard Carapaz was raised on the rough high altitude roads of Tulcan Canton in the north of Ecuador on the mountainous border with Colombia. It’s early yet but the man should not be under estimated, the rest did that in the Giro last year and paid the price.

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Carapaz now in the overall lead after a super hard stage 6

Britain’s Hugh Carthy moves up to second, in my preview I said of Carthy; ‘a man who’s worked his way steadily up the ranks to where he is now – very close to the top of the ‘mountain men’. Cancel that, he’s now one of the top ‘mountain men’. He was just outside the top 10 in the 2019 Giro so we know he can go the distance; we’ve already had one Grand Tour won by a young Brit today. . .

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Second overall for Hugh Carthy

Dan Martin slipped a little and is now two seconds behind Carthy in third spot. But the big surprise was Roglič slipping to fourth on GC, it’s just by 30 seconds – a ‘jour sans’ on a horrible day or all that racing packed into not so many days beginning to catch up with him and his boys?

roglic
A bad day for a bad day

Henchmen, Bennett and Kuss also slipped, three and 17 spots respectively. We’ll have more answers come Stage Seven and it’s two ascents of the tough Puerto de Orduña. Big home hope Mas also slid one place to fifth and lies at 1:07, not disastrous but hard to take back on a man like Carapaz. Bora’s Austrian, 2019 Tour of Turkey winner, Felix Großschartner moves up to sixth after a good day at the office. Stage Two winner, Marc Soler is up two places to seventh; can he leapfrog Mas to go best home boy?

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It was a grim day for Chaves and Roglič – The same for everyone

Esteban Chaves stays eighth, unlucky to have a mechanical when the hurt was on, the other day. David de la Cruz moves up to ninth for UAE and perennial Alejandro Valverde completes the top 10 on GC. Can anyone ‘do a Tao’ or is it between Roglic and Carapaz?

The story resumes on Tuesday.

Highlights stage 6

 

# Keep it PEZ all the way to Madrid – Covid-19 allowing. #

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 6:
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers in 24:34:39
2. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Pro Cycling at 0:18
3. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation at 0:20
4. Primož Roglič (Slov) Jumbo-Visma at 0:30
5. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar at 1:07
6. Felix Großschartner (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 1:30
7. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:42
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott at 2:02
9. David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 2:46
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 3:00
11. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren at 3:19
12. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana at 3:19
13. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma at 3:22
14. Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 3:28
15. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 3:46
16. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 3:47
17. Gino Mäder (Swi) NTT Pro Cycling at 4:04
18. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo at 4:11
19. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) UAE Team Emirates at 4:28
20. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana at 6:34
21. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 7:15
22. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 7:56
23. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma at 9:54
24. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 10:21
25. Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 13:43.

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