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Gallery: López tames Altu d’El Gamoniteiru to tighten hold on Vuelta podium place

Robyn Davidson
3 Sep 2021

Movistar rider first over the line but Roglič retains lead after foggy Stage 18 showdown

The cloud cover set a suitably dramatic tone for a general classification showdown as the main favourites took on the feared Altu d’El Gamoniteiru at the end of Stage 18 of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana yesterday.

Only light from the motorbikes seemed able to permeate the fog, which made distinguishing between the lolloping figures struggling up behind almost impossible at times. At the end of it all, though, the leader's red jersey they were all fighting for deservedly remained on the shoulders of Primož Roglič despite the efforts of Egan Bernal and Enric Mas to claw it from him. 

Despite the difficulty of this year's Vuelta course overall, it has taken a while for the general classification drama to fully unfold, but back-to-back mountainous stages in the final week left the leading contenders with nowhere left to hide.

An impressive break earlier in the stage by Team DSM’s Michael Storer secured enough points for him to take over the king of the mountains jersey from teammate Romain Bardet, before David de la Cruz took over the reigns on the Gamoniteiru itself. For a while it looked as though he might hang on, but then Miguel Ángel López decided the day would be his.

Movistar's climber took off with 4km left of the stage, catching and easily distancing a fading De la Cruz. The road was narrow and grinding but López powered on, at times looking like he was barely moving as the gradient ramped up cruelly towards the line.

So clouded over was the finish that cameras could barely differentiate between the grey background and the exhausted rider hauling himself over the line having fought through the fog. Behind him it almost felt like a repeat of the day prior as Roglič and Bernal stuck to each other’s wheels.

The Jumbo-Visma rider pulled away in the final metres to finish second and claim a handful of bonus seconds, followed by Mas and Bernal.

Roglič now leads by 2:30sec over Mas and 2:53sec over López, the Movistar duo now looking likely to flank him on the podium after the final stage time-trial on Sunday.

Trying to pierce the gloom himself was Cyclist photographer Chris Auld. Here are the pick of his shots from the day:

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