Defending Vuelta a Espana champion Primoz Roglic on Tuesday claimed the victory in a tough time trial to regain the lead in the overall standings with five stages remaining.
With his fourth stage win in this Vuelta so far, the Slovenian retook the leader’s red jersey from Team Ineos captain Richard Carapaz, with the pair having played cat-and-mouse with the lead for the whole race.
Thirty-nine seconds adrift, Ecuadorian climb specialist Carapaz has had the overall lead on five stages, while Roglic goes into his eighth stage in the leader’s tunic.
“We will continue fighting,” Carapaz promised after the stage, where he clung on grimly at times. “The Vuelta is still wide open. We’ve still got lots of chances. There are some very hard stages still to come and there are lots of opportunities to make a move.”
The title looks like it will only be decided in Saturday’s final mountaintop finish, in a race cut to 18 stages from 21 and raced in much colder-than-usual conditions, as the course this year has largely been set in the northwest.
Britain’s Hugh Carthy sits third ahead of the race’s climax on Sunday, while Ireland’s Dan Martin dropped to 1 minute, 42 seconds off the pace in fourth place.
In stage 13, few had expected anything other than Roglic winning the 33.7km individual race against the clock and the Team Jumbo-Visma rider remains the favorite to defend his title, although doubts linger regarding his mental toughness.
The advantage that Roglic gained over Carapaz and Carthy was less significant than it might have been and a surprise champion remains possible, with the chasing pair still within a minute of the lead.
Ireland’s Dan Martin, in fourth, might also have saved enough gas in the time trial for more opportunities up the road.
“Better to be 39 [seconds] in front than 39 behind,” Roglic said. “We need to keep focus. The guys are really strong and we will fight for it.”
Roglic’s powerful showing on the ascent of the slopes of Mirador de Ezaro might have surprised those wondering if fatigue might kick in for the 31-year-old this week.
“It’s beautiful,” Roglic said. “It’s been a long time since I won a time trial. It’s a super nice day. I feel strong, surprisingly.”
This season, Roglic led the Tour de France only to let the lead slip from his grasp on the penultimate day during a long and tricky time trial, as he was overtaken by compatriot Tadej Pogacar.
“We all know it’s not really a fun thing to do a time trial, but today I had the legs and I could do a nice time trial,” Roglic said.
Yesterday’s 204km run from Lugo to Orense in Galicia ended with a short, sharp climb, but Saturday’s stage is where the Vuelta will be won or lost, as the race finishes with a category 1 climb followed by a beyond-category hilltop finish.
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