Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Leader Roglic, Valverde pull clear of their rivals

Reuters, SANTUARIO DEL ACEBO, Spain

Primoz Roglic on Sunday maintained his sizeable lead over Alejandro Valverde in the Vuelta a Espana after stage 15, but both widened the gap over the rest of their rivals in the general classification.

Roglic’s teammate Sepp Kuss took the stage win.

Team Jumbo-Visma’s Kuss of the US attacked on the last of the four first category climbs with 6km remaining of the punishing 154.4km mountain stage from Tineo to Santuario del Acebo in Asturias to catch up with lone leader Sergio Samitier.

Kuss, 24, held his own on the summit finish, coming over the line 39 seconds ahead of Ruben Guerreiro of Team Katusha–Alpecin to earn his first Grand Tour stage win, while Tao Geoghegan Hart of Team Ineos came third, 40 seconds behind.

“I wanted to ride within myself and have a little bit in reserve in case Primoz came across. Maybe it was a bit too early to go, but I felt good,” Kuss told reporters. “I knew that the first few kilometers of the climb were the hardest, so I tried to be in a good position and wanted to ride at my own rhythm. There were no mind games.”

Valverde launched an attack on Roglic shortly afterward in a bid to reduce his overall deficit, although the Slovenian was up for the fight and the pair stayed together to come eighth and ninth respectively, 2 minutes, 14 seconds down on Kuss.

Valverde trailed Roglic by 2:25, but the Vuelta now looks set to be a two-horse race after the pair caused considerable damage to the other contenders.

2016 winner Nairo Quintana suffered the most, finishing 3:50 behind Kuss and now trails Roglic by 5:09. His compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez also saw his hopes of an overall win fade as he lost 41 seconds on Roglic.

Lopez came over the finish line at the same time as Tadej Pogacar, who remained in third place overall, but fell 3:42 behind Roglic and lost 40 seconds to Valverde.

“My legs were feeling good so I decided to attack from afar, and I have to say thanks to Roglic and to [Movistar teammate] Marc Soler for working so hard,” Valverde said. “After all that hard work it would have been very bad if I hadn’t gained anything, but 40 seconds is a very good amount.”

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