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Vuelta a España 2019: Nine stages done, how are the favourites faring?

Joseph Delves
2 Sep 2019

Who’s out of contention, and who’s riding up the rankings?

Despite there still being five remaining stages featuring more climbing, many pundits have described Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana as the queen stage. Certainly, the punchy 94km route shook up the race. Surviving its trio of peaks, along with assault by hail and a treacherous gravel section, the look on Tadej Pogacar’s (UAE Team Emirates) face when crossing the line suggested he knew he’d won a serious day’s racing.

Now with riders enjoying the first rest day, what do we know about how the race might pan out?

Big losers

Education First

A nasty crash in the bunch during Stage 6 saw several riders forced to abandon. Worst affected were Education First, who lost their team leader Rigoberto Uran along with ace climber Hugh Carthy. To add to the woes, further up the road in the break Tejay van Garderen crashed on a corner.

Flung some distance from the road, he was able to complete the stage, rolling in last among the finishers and with a bleeding face. Managing to start the next day, he was forced to climb off when the injury to his hand proved too painful to continue riding with.

Team Ineos

If Chris Froome had made it to the Tour de France, there’s no reason to assume Team Ineos wouldn’t have monopolised the entire podium. That the British team sent a second-string team to Spain was, therefore, no surprise.

However, things got off to a terrible start when co-leaders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Wout Poels both inexplicably lost almost 10 minutes on the first road stage.

With David De La Cruz faring slightly better, he had managed to climb to second overall by the end of Stage 6. However, once the GC race kicked off he went backwards too.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

It might seem strange to put the rider sitting third overall in with the losers, but Lopez had looked likely to take the lead. Having ridden strongly throughout Stage 9, and with teammates up the road, towards its close Lopez attacked and soon gained 30 seconds over his immediate rivals.

Yet, with hail landing on the gravel section halfway up the final climb, he then crashed on the loose surface. Using valuable energy just to regain the bunch, in the last few kilometres he lost around forty seconds to Quintana, with Roglic also overhauling him in the General Classification.

Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)

Another Stage 9 casualty was Mitchelton-Scott's Esteban Chaves. He was beset by mechanical problems on the Coll de la Gallina, the second of the day’s three climbs.

With his team car delayed, he was forced to swap bikes with teammate Damien Howson but his taller colleague's bike proved a poor fit. Swapping again, this time with the slightly shorter Tsgabu Grmay, the result was a loss of over four minutes come the finish line.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)

Aru fell heavily during the first TTT and lost 1’07”. However, by Stage 2 he was in the break and stealing back seconds. By Stage 7 he was up to 10th.

It wasn’t to continue. Instead, the mountainous Stage 9 saw him lose over 30 minutes along with any hope of a good overall placing.

Big winners

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

The favourite going into the race, and still the favourite 10 days later. Despite his Jumbo-Visma team going down on mass in the opening team time trial and losing close to 50 seconds to Lopez, Roglic now sits second overall, just six seconds behind Quintana.

He’s managed this by being consistently towards the front on every lumpy stage. Widely expected to do well in Stage 10's 36.2km individual time trial, he’s shown little in the way of vulnerability in the mountains.

Nairo Quintana snd Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Still unable to decide whether it’s Quintana or Valverde who leads the team, the Spanish squad have nevertheless seen their plans finally work out after a dire Tour de France.

Quintana won stage 2 and both riders then placed well on Stage 5. Stage 7 saw both working well together, with Valverde winning and Quintana coming forth.

However, both Roglic and Lopez were able to keep pace until the line. On Stage 9 the process was repeated, but with the Movistar riders’ placings reversed.

Now with Quintana leading the race by six seconds and Valverde in fourth at 20 seconds back, the team are doing well, although they’d like a bigger buffer given Quintana’s questionable time trialling ability.

Stand out performances

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos)

A masterclass in not giving in. On the first road stage, Geoghegan Hart lost around 10 minutes. Written off by almost everyone, by the rest day he’d just clawed himself back into the top 10 and was only 1 minute 38 seconds off the leader.

Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH)

Currently holding the lead in the climbers’ competition, Angel Madrazo and his teammate Jetse Bol had fans screaming at their televisions when they managed to grab places one and two on Stage 5.

Outfoxing the very experienced Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), the amazing result for the UCI ProContinental team had Madrazo in tears. Having suffered on yesterday's stage, whether Madrazo can hold the jersey is questionable.

Regardless, he’s already made himself one of the race’s stars.