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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Fuglsang wins atop La Cubilla as Roglic defends red jersey

Roglic stays strong, Valverde struggles and Pogacar closes in on second place

George Smith
9 Sep 2019

Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang soloed to victory ahead of a depleted breakaway group on Stage 16 from Pravia to Alto de La Cubilla as Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) moved one day closer to overall victory.

Denmark's Fuglsang rolled over the line comfortably ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos) in second and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) in third. James Knox (Deceuninck-Quickstep) crossed in 5th to hoist himself up the GC standings.

The day’s biggest loser was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who couldn’t keep up with the attacking group of Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Slovenian pair Tadej Pogacar and Roglic.

The trio distanced the World Champion on the upper slopes of the climb, putting 25 seconds into the veteran Spaniard by the line.

How the day happened

Yet another gruelling day in the mountains, today's 144.4km stage saw the riders tackle two Category 1 climbs before ending with a summit finish on the HC climb of La Cubilla.

The stage had all the trappings of being a decisive day in the Asturias, with the race profile slowly rising from the start right up until the first climb proper officially started just over 40km in.

Not that you’d have guessed at the challenging parcours ahead based on how the riders tore away from the start. At the gun, riders fought tooth and nail to earn the dubious honour of getting to the Puerto de San Lorenzo first – leaving a reduced peloton initially trailing behind two chase groups, themselves behind a lead breakaway duo.

The imposing first climb, averaging 8.5% for 10km, was conquered first by Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-La Mondiale), who beat the KOM jersey wearer at the start of the day, Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), into second.

The move, which earned him 10 points to Madrazo’s six, bumped Bouchard into the virtual lead of the classification – something he was subsequently able to hold on to, meaning he will start Stage 17 in the blue-spotted jersey.

Behind the numerous riders off the front, Jumbo-Visma controlled the pace up the climb for the peloton. That they were putting the hurt in was evidenced when Education First’s Sergio Higuita – who started the day in 11th overall – struggled to keep up.

In front of this main group, those who had earlier broken away, attacked, and chased, finally found themselves together as a group of 21 as they headed to the second climb. The best-placed within their midst was Knox, who started the day 18:42 down on Roglic.

Despite numerous predictions that the foot of the 8.3km La Cobertoria may basically have been a giant neon sign declaring: ATTACK HERE, neither the breakaway nor the peloton heeded the call on its 8.2% average gradients, with all rolling over relatively comfortably.

With Jumbo-Visma continuing to dictate the pace of the peloton, the gap to the front continued to grow, and by the time the break reached the day's final climb, La Cubilla, they had secured a gap larger than 9 minutes.

From there, with just under 10km of the race remaining, the strongest riders of the breakaway ditched their counterparts and set off for stage glory with the peloton unconcerned by the gap to them.

Fuglsang, who was one of the favourites for this year's Tour de France before abandoning following a crash, rode away shortly after and never looked like being caught on his way to the summit.