The Tour Take | Vuelta a Espana Stage 20
1st – Enric Mas (QuickStep Floors)
2nd – Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) @ s.t
3rd – Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) @ 0:23
Red - Simon Yates (Mitchelton- SCOTT)
Green - Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Polka Dot - Thomas De Gendt (Lotto - Soudal)
1st - Simon Yates (Mitchelton - SCOTT)
2nd - Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) @ 1:46
3rd - Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) @ 2:04
4th - Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto- Jumbo) @ 2:54
5th - Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) @ 4:28
6th - Thibaut Pinot (Groupama - FDJ) @ 5:57
7th - Rigoberto Uran (Team EF Education First - Drapac p/b Cannondale) @ 6:07
8th - Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) @ 6:51
9th - Ion Izagirre (Bahrain - Merida) @ 11:09
10th - Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) @ 11:11
Despite Stage 20’s short length at only 98 kilometres, it was a day chockers with climbing. There was a total ascent of over 3000m from six big climbs, all within Andorra. The Coll de Comella, Coll de Beixalis, Coll de Ordino, Coll de Beixalis (again), and Coll de Comella (the other side) led into the final climb, the Coll de la Gallina.
The Key Point
Rated as Andorra’s hardest climb, the Coll de la Gallina was an enticing finish to a cracking Vuelta. 7.7km averaging 7.8%, the hardest parts come on the switchbacks near the top as the gradient creeps into the mid-teens.
Today’s break was Thomas De Gendt powered, as the Belgian hardnut went all-out to secure KOM Points. He took maximum points on the first two climbs, to secure the win in the KOM Classification
He was joined by Kwiatkowski, Woods, Majka, NIbali, and Mollema initially; on the third climb of the day, another group with Herrada, Hindley, Olivera, Ghebreigzabhier, Roche, Zakarin, De la Cruz and Kelderman bridged up.
Astana were driving the pace in the peloton, looking to make things hard and help M.A Lopez jump onto the podium. The Second time up the Coll de Beixalis, Lopez was launched. That move ended the breakaway’s hopes, but Adam Yates paced a reduced peloton back to the Colombian’s wheel by the top of the climb
The penultimate time up the Coll de Comella, Miguel Angel Lopez attacked again, bridging up to Nairo Quintana who had found a gap on the descent leading into the climb. The two were working well, so well that Simon Yates took things into his own hands and attacked the peloton to try and join them, while Enric Mas followed.
At the base of the final climb the Coll de la Gallina, a front group of four had formed, with 0:30 over Valverde and Kruiswijk’s group.
Lopez was still giving it everything though, and attacked right at the bottom of the Gallina; while Mas followed, Yates rode conservatively, holding the two at 0:20.
Quintana had gone back to the peloton to help Valverde, but the Spaniard was running on empty and losing his podium position. Kruiswijk’s spot on it was in danger too; he was a minute back on the front and slipped into fourth.
In the final metres, Mas sprinted around Lopez to take the win and ensure second place overall, but Lopez had done enought to take third. Valverde blew up completely in the final kilometres and slipped down to fifth overall.
3 – Enric Mas. A huge stage win from Spanish cycling’s heir. He might be the present now though, having finished a couple minutes up on Valverde.
2 - Miguel Angel Lopez. Lopez threw everything at everyone all day long, and his podium place is duly deserved.
1 – Simon Yates. A day where he did more than enough to win the Red Jersey, containing some serious attacks from Lopez
Leaders: S Yates (14), Valverde (9), Pinot, Sagan (6), Dennis, King (5), Herrada, Mate, Kwiatkowski, Woods, Viviani (4), Bouhanni, Clarke, De Marchi, Gallopin, Geniez, Lopez, Mas, Mollema, Quintana, Wallays (3) Bystrom, Kruijswijk (2) De Plus, Mollard, Postlberger, Rodriguez, Rhestrepo, Campenaerts, Cortina, Majka, Porte, Rolland, Van Baarle (1),
The Movers and Shakers
This stage could easily have turned rotten with the guys sitting 2nd through 5th waiting for the final climb to fight for the podium, but Lopez was determined to try for the win, and it made for a hugely entertaining day. Astana set him up, and he was super impressive on the final three climbs, attacking relentlessly. Looking at the race as a whole, the right guys finished on the podium; he’s been aggressive all race long, and has been rewarded. That goes for Enric Mas too; he didn’t figure in calculations until Stage 15’s finish at Lagos de Covadonga, but since that day, he’s been as good as anyone.
It’s a shame for Steven Kruiswijk though, who finishes the year with two Top 5 results at Le Tour and La Vuelta, but no podium spots. You did feel he was empty and hanging on for dear life here though, so it’s incredible that he finished as high as he did. Valverde was as empty as anyone today, finishing 3:09 back on Lopez today, with nearly all of that coming on the final climb.
For Simon Yates, this result caps off his rise to true GC Contender; he and the team learnt a lot from their failures at this year’s Giro, and it served him well here. He was aggressive, but had enough in the tank when it mattered, and showed good race nous for the whole three weeks.
The Next Stage
A processional stage around Madrid awaits the riders on Stage 21, with a circuit race planned. A 30km jaunt from Alcorcon to Madrid opens the stage, before 11 laps of a 6km circuit. It’s a long, narrow circuit, slightly resembling a hot-dog crit, and should end in a sprint finish.
Elia Viviani is the favourite for every sprint he’s involved in these days, and this one’s no different.
See you back at the social club,