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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Tadej Pogacar wins explosive Stage 9 summit finish; Quintana the day's biggest winner

Tadej Pogacar took a strong stage win but Nairo Quintana was the day's biggest winner on Stage 9 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana

Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates), the youngest rider in the race, won Stage 9 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana as he took the summit finish win on what is seen by many as the queen stage of this year's race. Behind him, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossed the line in second to gain time, and bonus seconds, on the rest of the top 10.

The six second time bonus was enough to put Quintana into the overall lead, where he now leads Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) by that margin. Roglic had looked in trouble but fought his way back to finish third on the stage, for a four second bonus, while not losing much actual time on the road to Quintana.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) had looked like he'd be the day's best rider when he went clear of his rivals and made the most of teammates already up the road, but he ran out of steam and lost time on GC. It was reported after the stage that he'd crashed during an outage in the television pictures but he was able to finish and didn't looked too badly hurt.

He's now in third having started the day probably expecting to be back in the red jersey.

An early queen stage

Despite coming on the ninth stage and before the first rest day, today's punchy 94.4km ride around Andorra very much had the characteristics of a queen stage.

In its short distance there were five categorised climbs, of which one was hors categorie and two carried a Cat 1 classification, including the summit finish.

In reality the final three climbs - Cat 2, Cat 2, Cat 1 - were really one long climb with a couple of false summits or slight descents. For anyone racing up there it'll feel every bit the 25km slog.

A large breakaway group went almost from the flag drop, which was delayed while riders regained contact with the peloton in the neutralised kilometres, and the group contained stage hunters and the domestiques of the GC hopefuls.

Up front there were attacks and counter-attacks while the greatly reduced peloton kept tempo, led for the most part by the Astana team of Lopez, for all intents the race's overall leader during the day's early kilometres.

A puncture saw Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) riding a teammate's bike, unable to sit on the saddle as it was about 10cm higher than his own. Once back on his own, or spare, bike he burned through domestiques as he worked hard to get back on terms.

Race leader Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) did himself and the red jersey proud by pushing hard to limit his losses to far superior climbers but his hopes of retaining it for another day looked ever-less likely over the middle climbs of the stage. Following him around was the blue dotted jersey of Ángel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) whose lead in the mountains competition also looked in trouble due to the number of points being scooped up ahead.

As well as the climbs, the riders had to contend with very technical descents. Narrow winding roads and hairpins that almost fold round on themselves tested the nerves and descending skills of the peloton.

Also amongst the ascending and descending was a section of gravel road, as is the obligation for any race on the current professional calendar.

After his team had set the pace for much of the stage, Lopez launched an attack with around 20km to go on the stage. Quintana was the first to react and the first to get back on terms, but the rest of the favourites quartet - Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Roglic - were soon back.

Valverde had a little dig but while he was looking to see what Roglic might do, Lopez went again and soon got clear.

The three GC teams called their riders in the breakaway to sit up and wait for their leaders to join them. Lopez passed the domestiques from rival teams as he went further ahead of those hoping to challenge him for the red jersey.

After a couple of kilometres on his own, Lopez made contact with a teammate who gave his all, for a short period, to tow his leader away from the riders behind. In the group behind, Roglic found himself on the front while neither Quintana or Valverde looked likely to close the gap to Lopez.

Jumbo-Visma's plan of having people up the road quickly unravelled when those domestiques couldn't stick with the Roglic group, let alone lead it back into contention.

Next to take a turn for Lopez was Jakob Fuglsang, while behind Movistar set the pace on the chasing group before Valverde launched in the hope of getting an advantage over Roglic before the time-trial to come, but didn't get far up the road before being caught.

Quintana went next and again an isolated Roglic was left to close the gap alone, which he did but at what cost to his energy reserves?

The weather decided to get involved and rain met the riders as the road went ever higher. Gravel still awaited the riders when the rain started, which would now have the added dimension of being wet.

On a flatter section of road, Roglic found a teammate to take the wind and was likely glad of the relief. The weather began to cause the television transmission as much trouble as it threatened to cause the riders and footage soon switched to sweeping views of Andorra's wooded valleys.

These images were replaced with scenes of torrential rain at the finish line, with locals and fans wondering how wet you need to get before you start windering how much you actually like watching cycling.

Riders were understandably sheepish as they descended on the wet gravel road, with streams cutting trenches through the road's loose surface. The intermittent images started to look reminiscent of the weather faced in the late stages of this year's Tour de France.

With at least 5km between him and the finish line, Roglic was alone and chasing. Valverde was glued to the rear wheel of Lopez, who the group had caught at some point during the rainstorm - we later found out the Astana leader had crashed, while Quintana tried his luck further up the road.

Marc Soler was riding alone and leading the race, while also being in place for Quintana to follow him towards the summit finish if he could make the catch.

Valverde launched again but Lopez and the others riding with them came back to the World Champion. Soler was visibly irritated by an instruction from his team, likely the request to sit up and wait for Quintana at the cost of his own chances for a stage win.

Pogacar, who'd been following Quintana around for a while, went solo around 2.6km from the line as the pair caught Soler. Annoyed as he was just a minute or two before, Soler was a dutiful domestique and appeared to be riding for his leader. Even so, Pogacar got further and further away.

Roglic rode past Lopez and got back on terms with Valverde, but rather than riding past he just followed the weaving wheels of the World Champion.

Quintana disposed of Soler, desperate to gain as much time as possible on his rivals - and teammates - but the stage win was already out of reach.