Roglic sentences La Vuelta in Covadonga
Great stage with a clear protagonist and a winner. Egan Bernal showed his courage. Roglic was the only one who could follow him and he takes the lead of the race in the last week after an exhibition. The Slovenian took advantage of Bernal's bravery and won in Covadonga. It is ugly to say that he has won another Vuelta, but, except in the case of catastrophe, it is real.
Start of the race and attack by Egan Bernal
Today was the big day. And for those who claimed that this Vuelta 2021 was boring, the spectacle must have been to their liking. Because stage 17 was marked with fire in the calendar: a queen mountain stage, with 186 kilometres and four mountain passes ahead, mainly the last three: La Collada Llomena, first category, short, but with an average gradient of 9.3%; secondly, another climb to La Collada; and to close the party, Lagos de Covadonga, almost 13 kilometres at an average gradient of almost 7%.
In such a scenario, any attack in the first half seemed reckless. Even so, like every day, there were party-goers. Tratnik and Stannard started, then another large group quickly caught by the peloton; then 8 riders in another attempt quickly repressed again by the same peloton. In this tone they reached the Altu de Hortigueru, with no news, all grouped together.
Average of more than 50 per hour and very stretched peloton. So much so that it ended up breaking up, forming two groups that were separated by up to a minute at the halfway point of the stage. Ahead, four riders went solo while Bernal grabbed water and food for what was to come. We had highlighted the Colombian, but today he put on a show.
And on the first ascent to La Collada, the first news as remarkable as expected: Eiking collapsed (not only because he went to the ground on the downhill). The leader was unhooked and dispelled any doubts, if there were any, about his ability to fight for something big in this Vuelta 2021. But Bernal ended up eclipsing the rest: with 60 kilometres to go he attacked and broke the race completely.
Roglic's historic performance
Bernal attacked and the only one who held his wheel was Primoz Roglic. Obviously, the general classification of the Vuelta was at stake, so the response from Movistar was not long in coming. But it was Superman Lopez who tried, because Mas was suffering from the cold and was unable to change the pace.
They quickly gained about 40 seconds which, on the climb, seemed like a short distance but was crucial, because the peloton had lost all visual contact with Bernal and Roglic. With 50 kilometres to go, the gap was over a minute, and many panicked, especially when Roglic started to hand over to the good Egan, because then it took a dreadful turn for the aspirations of Mas and Lopez in particular.
The gap was increasing all the time. They took more than two minutes with 25 kilometres to go, even more time considering that the leader was Eiking, so Roglic was virtually the new leader. The Slovenian did not disappoint and, when the big day came, he was up to the task.
Before the ascent to Covadonga, the peloton, or what was left of it actually, began to collaborate, and the gap dropped below two minutes, but it was a mirage because, if the pattern of the stage continued like that, Roglic would leave the stage leader with a gap and Bernal would be right in the fight for the podium. At the foot of the pass, Bahrain's work paid off: a minute and a half difference at the start of the climb and Eiking at more than 5 minutes. Excitement and the fans screaming in spite of the rain.
Martin held on well, leaving Mas in third place overall. But, we insist, the images to remember of this tremendous pass will be forever for the leading duo and especially for Roglic. He went solo and won his third stage in this edition of La Vuelta.
Tomorrow Gamoniteiro. We'll see what happens, because the only strategy and the only hope for Movistar is that the tremendous beating in the rain that Roglic and Bernal have given each other today takes its toll tomorrow. Because if this is the tone, there is a winner of La Vuelta 2021 and he has a Slovenian passport again. Because Roglic even dropped Bernal when he felt like it and rode solo to victory in Covadonga. He enjoyed his last 2 kilometres and left Bernal in the quagmire. The Colombian, who was very brave, fell apart at the end and was chased down by the rest of the riders. The Slovenian, a Martian, is at another level.
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | 4:34:45
- Kuss, S. (Jumbo Visma) | +1:35
- López, M.A. (Movistar) | +1:35
- Roglic, P. (Jumbo Visma) | 68:42:56
- Mas, E. (Movistar) | +2:22
- López, M.A. (Movistar) | +3:11