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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Lopez top dog among GC favourites as Madrazo wins Stage 5 from break

Breakaway hold on for victory on race's first summit finish as Lopez reclaims red from Roche

Joe Robinson
28 Aug 2019

Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez took first blood among the General Classification favourites on the 2019 Vuelta a Espana's first summit finish to the Alto de Javalambre as Burgos-BH climber Angel Madrazo took an inspired stage win.

Lopez powered away from a small group in the closing kilometres of the climb to eventually finish 10 seconds ahead of nearest GC rivals Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

It was an effort good enough for Lopez to regain the race lead from Nico Roche (Team Sunweb), who was dropped despite a valiant effort. Roglic moved into second while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) dropped down to third.

As for the stage win, a lack of urgency chasing the break allowed Madrazo to climb to victory for Burgos-BH's first stage victory at the Vuelta a Espana.

The Spaniard produced an inspired performance on the final climb, battling back after being dropped on multiple occasions by breakaway companions Jose Herrada of Cofidis and teammate Jetse Bol on multiple occasions.

Madrazo eventually had enough to power away in the final 400m to take the biggest win of his career.

To the mountains they go

Stage 4 to El Puig was as close as a finish could get. Fabio Jakobsen's knowledge of roundabouts was ultimately what led him to victory over Sam Bennett and the Deceuninck-QuickStep man's first Grand Tour win.

Neither were set to feature on Stage 5 however as the race tackled its first mountaintop finish, the Alto de Javalambre.

Making things more interesting, it was also the first time the race had ever visited the 11.1km climb that averages 7.8%, making it truly a race into the unknown for the entire peloton.

Reported gradients of 16% made it even more of a frightening prospect which is probably why the day's break only consisted of three, Bol and Madrazo of Burgos-BH and Herrada of Cofidis, none of whom were any threat to the overall.

They were afforded a lot of slack by a peloton unwilling to shoulder the burden of controlling the race.

Ultimately, the red jersey of Roche and Team Sunweb knew they would likely lose the lead by the top so were unwilling to control proceedings. Teams such as Movistar and Jumbo-Visma were also aware of the race's infancy and were not keen, either, to take up pacemaking.

This culminated in the trio upfront being given a lead of 10 minutes that basically stayed there for most of the day. In fact, such was the lack of urgency in the peloton, one climb even saw riders come to a standstill due to the lack of pace.

By the time the race had hit the base of the Javalambre, the break's gap had reduced significantly but not enough to bring the stage win back into the view of the peloton.

It was clear that there were going to be two battles: one for the stage and one for the jersey.