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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Tadej Pogacar wins Stage 13 in alliance with Primoz Roglic

An alliance based on nationality saw the two riders take huge strides in the GC on Stage 13 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana. Image: Eurosport

Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) won Stage 13 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana as he and compatriot and overall leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) rode away from their rivals on the steep climbs of Los Machucos. They went early and rode together all the way to the finish line, spoiling the dreams of the breakaway riders and gaining valuable time on the rest of the top 10.

None of the other riders could do anything when these two went away in what looked like a pre-planned move to work together.

Pogacar did much of the work on the climb and was rewarded with a stage win and a bettering of his position overall, while Roglic took second for six bonus seconds and an increased lead at the top of the General Classification.

The GC riders couldn't have another day off, could they?

After two relatively easy days for the General Classification hopefuls, including rolling in over 18 minutes after the day's winner on Stage 11, soft-pedalling the final few kilometres after a tough ride on the time-trial the day before.

That was followed by another breakaway win, this time taken by Philippe Gilbert, so regardless of whether the break won again those in the GC would need to start racing each other again.

The onus was on everyone else to attack Roglic and try to regain the time he put into them on the Stage 10 time-trial.

The stage was set to finish on the brutal ascent of Los Machucos, a climb that put Chris Froome in trouble in 2017, and so we were right to expect fireworks as the overall contenders pushed for the line and any possible time gains.

Long before that, all the liveliness was ahead of the red jersey group in the breakaway. Although it was more breakaways plural as groups came together and moved apart, attacks went up the road and counter-attacks followed.

As the gap went out to nearly nine minutes we were coming close to having a new virtual lead on the road. That virtual lead wasn't to last and with it faded the likely chances of the breakaway contesting the stage win.

Astana were first to take it up and once they got interested the gap to the break tumbled. With 10km to go, including the worst of the final climb, those out front only had around two minutes over the chasers.

Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias) continued to hope that his solo move would deliver him to a stage win but reality was bearing down on his dreams long before he was caught.

The rest of the break hit the early slopes and it gave an indication of the obvious importance of positioning. The road is narrow enough anyway, but factor in the spectators and the room to overtake a slower rival or domestique is limited.

Saez was done when Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) passed him, grinding his way up the 21% gradient with the commissaire's car a bit too close to his rear wheel.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was the first of the top 10 to push on as he started to pass the first of the breakaway riders. That move threatened the podium position of Miguel Angel Lopez, whose Astana teammates had done much of the work on the stage, so he would have to react and likely caused further reactions from other riders.

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) rode past a fading Armirail as he started to take on the mid-climb section of descent. Quintana stayed ahead of the rest of the GC contenders while those riders rode relatively defensively as they all watched one another until Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) thought he'd have a dig.

That move cancelled out Quintana's advantage, while a high cadence-spinning Roglic came to the front of the group with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) close behind.

Pogacar looked at the older men around him and attempted to ride away from them. A compatriot of Roglic, it was interesting to watch if they might work together despite being on different trade teams.

So it was as Roglic rode up to Pogacar, a move that put Quintana in trouble and caused other gaps to open in the group. Only Valverde could latch on to the Slovene train as it passed some more remnants of the earlier breakaway. Valverde's presence was shortlived and away Roglic and Pogacar went, taking on the concrete slab surface of the steep gradient corners.

Quintana recovered enough to get back to Valverde and took Majka with him. Lopez was faring the worst and had to watch as his rivals got further and further ahead of him.

His head bobbing up and down under the effort of keeping the pedals turning, Latour couldn't hold off Pogacar and Roglic as they rode past him almost like he was standing still.

The near-proximity of Quintana seemed to spur Valverde on to try a bit harder so that gap went out slightly again.

Despite their shared first language, it didn't appear that there were many words exchanged between the leading pair. This looked every bit a pre-planned move.