The Vuelta Final Rant: Ed Hood has been on the edge of his seat with the excitement of the final week of the Vuelta a España, but he would have rather been ‘Roadside’… maybe next year? No complaints on the action side of the race as it all came down to the last climb. Here is Ed’s final Vuelta’20 race rant.
These three (and others) gave us a good race, when many thought the Vuelta wouldn’t get to Madrid
‘The race of truth.’ But is it? The fact is that many professionals could ride a good time trial but don’t have to.
Roglič: From green to red
For a rider like today’s winner, Roglic – his fourth stage victory of the race – it’s expected and necessary to perform as one of the best ‘testers’ in the world, apart from the stage victory and the GC there’s reputation and sponsor expectation in play. You might think that a ride like Will Barta’s is a surprise; but do your homework and you’ll find him winning the time trial in the 2013 Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada – the ‘junior Tour de France’ with the likes of Bobby Julich, Taylor Phinney and recent Giro revelation, Brandon McNulty all on the role of honour.
Will Barta must get a 2021 contract now
Then in 2016 he had strong rides in the Tour de Beauce and Tour de l’Avenir chronos as an u23. A year later and he was runner up to aforementioned McNulty in the US u23 iTT Championships and fourth in the elite iTT Championship. That same year he was just off the podium in the iTT stage of the prestigious u23 ‘shop window’ Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux. A year later he was second on the same stage and fourth in the Baby Giro prologue to Edoardo Affini who was European u23 iTT Champion that year. Last year he was top 10 in the Romandie time trial and top 20 in the Vuelta time test. This year he was top 10 in the Tour de l’Ain iTT and 12th in the Tirreno iTT and not so far off the pace tightly packed final result. And don’t forget that he has chrono master mind Marco Pinotti advising him at CCC. But perhaps most importantly, he needs a contract for 2021, needs to catch the eye so had to produce a ride.
The ride of the day came from Hugh Carthy
Third spot went to a real specialist, Movistar man Nelson Olivera, four time Portuguese Elite iTT Champion and three times in the top seven in the Worlds iTT. But in fourth place we come to the ‘ride of the day,’ from slim EF and GB man, Hugh Carthy. This is where the ‘have to’ comes in, usually for a climber like Carthy a time test is something to ‘get round,’ and not go too deep in advance of his next opportunity against gravity. Albeit he was top 10 in last season’s Giro iTT with a top 10 GC place to play for – he finished 11th on final GC. But today, there was a lot more at stake, a Vuelta podium, perhaps even a win given Saturday’s brutal finale on La Covatilla, a climb which plays to the man from Preston’s climbing genius – ably demonstrated on the Angliru. So really, it is, ‘the race of truth,’ it’s just that sometimes it takes some hard questioning to extract it. ‘Chapeau!’ Mr. Carthy.
Stage 13TT highlights
An on form and relaxed Tim Wellens takes his second stage win to make it a very good Vuelta for Lotto Soudal.
But why relaxed? With that first stage win the job is done, a second win is ‘cream.’ And besides, he’s just inked a two year contract extension with Lotto – Soudal. In second spot was Mike Woods, another man with his stage win in the bag AND a three year deal with Israel Start-Up Nation, he’s relaxed too – but not as chilled as Wellens.
Canada’ Mike Woods in second place
But what about the other end of the race? Lotto top and tailed the race with their 22 year-old Belgian sprinter, Gerben Thijssen stone last at 25:36, no drama though, he was well inside the 47:05 ‘cut.’ This is his first Grand Tour and he’s handling it well with fifth on Stage Four behind top level fast men like Bennett, Philipsen and Ackermann then a fine second behind Ackermann on Stage Nine, where Bennett was first across the line but was declassed for – not very much.
Gerben Thijssen – Last but more to come
On GC Thijssen is @ 3:43:17 just behind Englishman, Harry Tanfield (AG2R-La Mondiale) sitting 144th of the 148 left in the race. If he gets through the remaining stages he’ll come out of the race a stronger, wiser man and is a name to look out for in sprints to come.
Niki Terpstra still not 100%
Second to last was a man not used to such lowly standings, Niki Terpstra (Team Total Direct Energie & The Netherlands) who’s won Paris-Roubaix, de Ronde, the E3, Dwars door, the Samyn not to mention the Eneco Tour, Tour of Qatar and Tour de Wallonie. But he’s on a recovery path after his bad crash back in June when, motor pacing behind a scooter, geese wandered in to the road right in front of him, in an effort to avoid the crash he dived at high speed, went off the road and flew into a deep ditch beside an embankment where he landed with his chest against a boulder.
Bad crash for Terpstra back in June
Net result: a collapsed lung, a concussion, broken ribs and a broken collarbone. Ouch! Niki is 36 years-old now so in the autumn of his career but is still harder than hard and it would be nice to see some ‘last hurrahs!’ from him come next spring – Covid permitting, that is.
Onboard camera stage 14
‘You’re young and good-lookin’ an’ you’re actin’ kinda tough,’ we’re sure Bob Geldof didn’t have 22 year-old Japer Philipsen in mind when he wrote that line but it certainly applies to the young UAE Belgian who finally grabbed that BiG win he’s been threatening to.
Big win for Japer Philipsen
An Axel Merckx, Hagens Berman Axeon graduate he won the u23 Paris-Tours in 2017 and twice won the World Tour ‘shop window,’ Triptyque de Monts et Chateaux u23 stage race. UAE snapped him up and his progress has been good, a stage ‘Down Under,’ last year – a race he returned to this year to take the overall points classification – and a stages in the BinckBank Tour and Tour du Limousin, this season. Stage 15 was his third top four finish of the race, he was second on Stage Four and fourth on Stage Nine. He actually moves down a division to Alpecin-Fenix for the next two years, he’ll get more opportunities there with the team dedicated to him and their ‘Star Man,’ Mathieu Van Der Poel. And one has to imagine that to entice him down a tier to ProTeam level – formerly Pro Continental – those AC/DC lyrics would be in play; ‘Listen to the money talk.’
A last win for UAE
That was at the top end of the day’s results, at the other end we’re sad to see Brit, Harry Tanfield have to throw in the towel. We’ve kept an eye on the man from North East England since the days he’d come up to Scotland and race as an u23. He rode well in the Belgian kermises too and won stages out in China in the lucrative UCi Asia Tour races there. A strong individual and team pursuiter, he’s good against the watch with a silver medal to Cameron Meyer in the 2018 Commonwealth Games Time Trial. He signed with Katusha-Alpecin last year and transferred over to AG2R-La Mondiale when the Russian team folded. He was inside the top 20 with 16th spot on Stage Nine of this race and just outside the top 20 in 21st spot in the Stage 13 time test.
Harry Tanfield holding the stage 4 break
Here’s what he had to say about his retiral, on social media: “It’s heart-breaking to write that I won’t be starting stage 16 of @lavuelta tomorrow. Today was just too much, still suffering with the torn VMO (inner thigh) muscle and the body was pretty empty. No regrets from the race, I gave everything I had – maybe a little too much in the TT? But I helped the boys in positioning each day to the end. Big thanks to @ag2rlamondiale_procyclingteam for the opportunity to come here and show myself and really enjoyed the experience, certainly learnt a lot about myself. Thanks for all the messages of support throughout the race, never would have imagined making it three stages to the end. Will be watching from the sofa tomorrow. Peace out, safe lock down everybody.”
‘Vaya con Dios,’ Harry, one of the Good Guys.
Stage 15 highlights
“Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Pro Cycling) won stage 16 of La Vuelta after a very intense day of racing from Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo. The Danish all-rounder dominated the sprint in a small bunch ahead of Primoz Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) to take his third victory on the roads of La Vuelta, four years after he won the final sprint in Madrid. Roglič takes six bonus seconds to increase his lead on GC. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) trails by 45’’ on the eve of the final mountain stage. This is EF Pro Cycling’s third victory in this edition, after Michael Woods and Hugh Carthy already claimed success.” A neat summation of the stage from the Vuelta organisation.
Magnus Cort Nielsen ahead of overall leader Primoz Roglič
Despite rumours of its demise, the EF team – which has had a very strong year, with wins in all three Grand Tours – soldiers on into 2021. Former World u23 Champion and Sky/Ineos man, Kristoffer Halvorsen drops to ProTeam level with Uno-X, a victim of a ‘Covid morale downer’. Their climbing sensation, Tour de France stage-winner, Dani Martínez goes to Ineos Grenadiers on a one year deal; veteran, Tanel Kangert goes to Mitchelton-Scott on a two year deal whilst Sep Vanmarcke and Michael Woods will move to Israel Start-Up Nation, both men are in their 30’s but have negotiated three year deals – nice job, guys. Ronde winner in 2019, Alberto Bettiol; young Swiss, Stefan Bissegger; Angliru conqueror Hugh Carthy; aforementioned stage winner, Magnus Cort; US rider Lawson Craddock; Giro stage-winner and king of the mountains, Ruben Gurreiro; Colombian climber, Sergio Higuita; Dutchman Nolan Hofland; 2019 US Champion Alex Howes; Dutch ‘man of the Classics, Jens Keukeleire; Aussie off–roader, Lachlan Morton; 2016 u23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner, Logan Owen; promising US rider, Neilson Powless; 2019 u23 Gent Wevelgem winner, Germany’s Jonas Rutsch; young Dutchman Julius van den Berg and u23 Aussie, Ronde winner, James Whelan all go forward into 2021 with the team and Son of Nippon, Hideto Nakane joins from Nippo Delko.
What is the future for EF Pro Cycling?
However at today’s date there’s ‘No room at the inn for’: Sean Bennett, Jonathan Caicedo, Simon Clarke, Mitch Docker, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Scully, Rigoberto Uran or Tejay van Garderen. None of these riders have a team against their name for 2021. Interesting to note what team Head Honcho, Jonathan Vaughters had to say about his 2021 line-up, bearing in mind he asked his riders to accept a 44% pay cut to keep the team solvent through 2020; “The 2020 season was unprecedented across the sport and beyond. Our riders worked with management to put the preservation of the team above themselves, taking wage reductions in order to help the team through the season and into the next. It was only right to offer all riders who took reductions, contracts for the 2021 season.”
‘Unprecedented times’ indeed.
Alto de la Covatilla tomorrow – be afraid, be very afraid. . .
Onboard camera stage 16
That’s the thing about us folks who write about cycling, not to mention their friends, whose opinions we can’t help but be influenced by; we like to write about what might happen.
Vuelta stage win No.2 for the French hope
Take David Gaudu’s second stage win for instance. Already I’m hearing; ‘possible future Tour de France winner’. However, the Vuelta isn’t le Tour and two words spring to mind, Warren and Barguil; two magnificent stages in the 2013 Vuelta, then – not much for another four years. Top 10 is as good as Warren’s Tour ‘challenge’ has been since then; but in fairness to the man he’s had a strong 2020 in single day races.
Remember the Vuelta, Warren?
But ‘chapeau’ to Monsieur Gaudu, two stage wins and his exploit hoisted him into the top 10, from 11th to eighth and there’s nothing I would love to see more than a French Tour de France winner. It’s not gonna be Thibaut; perhaps Julian? David – maybe?
Tour next for Gaudu – Not waiting
Then there’s ‘conspiracy theories’, today, Mas wasn’t riding in the final to try leap frog Dan Martin into fourth place, oh no, he was riding so as Carapaz wouldn’t gain enough time on Roglič GC to win the overall. Not because of his own ambitions but to ‘punish’ Carapaz for jumping ship on Movistar to go to Ineos. In my book the ‘punishment’ would be the time he spent with Movistar – ‘dysfunctional’ isn’t the word.
Did Mas help Roglič?
And what of Mas? He’s only 25 years-old, he’ll be 26 in January, but he hasn’t perhaps progressed as we expected, albeit fifth in the Tour and Vuelta in the same year isn’t exactly failure. But remember that he was second in the 2018 Vuelta wearing the colours of Patrick Lefevere’s Quick-Step team; he rode well in every stage race he rode for the Belgian team in 2019, but for 2020 the offer from the team sponsored by the largest mobile phone operator in Spain with 22 million customers was too much to resist. However, the team’s ability to ‘mess it up’ tactically is well documented and it’s hard to see the slim Spaniard win a Grand Tour for the Spanish team.
‘Mas o menos’ (more or less)
Going back to what we journos get up to; apart from heaping pressure on promising young riders and indulging in conspiracy theories, there’s the; ‘he only won because of . . . angle.’ ‘Roglič only won because of his time bonuses,’ is the one of the moment. As far as I’m aware the man isn’t on the organisation and wasn’t responsible for framing the time bonuses and he did win three road stages; riders have fought for time bonuses all the years I’ve watched the sport, they’re just part of the structure of the game.
They gave us a great race
But here I am writing about what we write about – maybe that makes me worse?
Climber/philosopher Guillaume Martin – Carrying on the Cofidis KOM tradition
Congratulations to Messrs. Gaudu, Roglič, Carapaz, Carthy, Martin and the other Martin, climber/philosopher Guillaume – good to see Cofidis take a big result from a Grand Tour – you all gave us a great race. Photo ops day tomorrow but the sprint at the end is for real. Bennett?
Stage 17 highlights
I fancied Bennett, but it was big German Pascal Ackermann that the photo finish found in favour of to take his second bouquet of the race.
It was close
The second occasion upon which he’s denied the Irishman; the first time was shaky in my book with Bennett declassed for very little – this one was fair and square.
The final stage was won fairly
I thought we’d close my Vuelta book with a few stats:
39 wins for Patrick’s boys
Ackermann prevented Deceuninck – Quick-Step from getting to 40 wins for the year but the Belgian team’s record is still impressive by any measure with fifteen different riders scoring 39 victories in 12 countries across three continents, taking Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s all-time tally close to an astonishing 800 wins.
Pascal Ackermann has been winning since February – Almeria
Ackermann’s was his eighth UCi win of the year and takes his BORA – hansgrohe team’s total to 21 in 2020.
It has been a good year for the Sunweb youngsters – Jasha Sutterlin and Max Kanter on the last stage to Madrid
Max Kanter took his second third place sprint finish of this Vuelta with Sunweb closing their 2020 book on 16 wins.
Japer Philipsen – Top sprinter with MVDP in 2021
Fourth place went to Stage 15 winner, Jasper Philipsen whose UAE squad have had a pretty impressive 2020 with 33 wins, 25 second places and 20 third places.
Onboard camera stage 18
# Thank you for reading my Vuelta rantings, I hope you enjoyed them – soon be the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. . . #
The 2020 Vuelta a España jersey winners
Vuelta a España Final Overall Result:
1. Primož Roglič (Slov) Jumbo-Visma in 72:46:12
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:24
3. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Pro Cycling at 1:15
4. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation at 2:43
5. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar at 3:36
6. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren at 7:16
7. David de la Cruz )Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 7:35
8. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 7:45
9. Felix Großschartner (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 8:15
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 9:34
Points Competition: Primož Roglič (Slov) Jumbo-Visma
Best Young Rider: Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar
King of the Mountains: Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
Most Aggressive Rider: Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
Team: Movistar (Spa).