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Vuelta a Espana 2019 Stage 18: Primoz Roglic holds firm in red jersey

Joe Robinson
12 Sep 2019

Sergio Higuita wins the stage as Primoz Roglic marches one step closer to overall victory

Education First's Sergio Higuita took his maiden Grand Tour victory in impressive fashion on Stage 18 to Becerril de la Sierra as Jumbo-Visma's Primoz Roglic moved one step closer to overall victory at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana.

Higuita rode alone for over 40km, holding off the chasing group of General Classification riders to win the stage by 15 seconds and salvage some success for Education First, whose Vuelta had been blighted by injury.

Red jersey wearer Roglic won the sprint for second to extend his overall lead on GC over Alejandro Valverde who leapfrogged Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana into second place.

Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez was also a big winner on the day after his persistent attacks saw him usurp UAE Team Emirates's Tadej Pogacar into the white jersey for best young rider.

The stage after the day before

Echelons, the secret killer. The blowing wind, splitting the race, causing carnage from kilometre zero. Stage 17 was the fastest race over 200km in history with Deceuninck-QuickStep's Philippe Gilbert the stage winner and Quintana the biggest benefactor moving up to second on General Classification.

Leapfrogging teammate Valverde and knocking Pogacar off the podium entirely, it meant that Stage 18 was never going to be a quiet night at the library. It contained four categorised mountains across 177km with a slight kicker to conclude the day.

Those racing for red clearly wanted to juke out the finish meaning the break never had too much of a chance. The gap to the 13 out front was always kept manageable and with two climbs conquered, the peloton sat within five minutes of their grasp.

All was quiet on the western front, that was until Lopez put down the hammer on the penultimate climb and shot off like Superman.

The Astana man drew out a 22-second lead and obliterated the group behind leaving only the best GC contenders, Roglic, Valverde, Pogacar and Quintana, in pursuit.

The gap stayed steady on the flat run before the last climb, Puerto de Cotos, as Lopez joined teammate Omar Fraile with the Spaniard setting a hefty pace for his Colombian team leader.

Lopez was caught by the final climb, tentative attacks were launched once they caught the remnants of the break. Nothing seemed serious and it was playing into the hands of Higuita who was upfront all alone.

Lopez realised he needed to take time. It's why he pushed on with 4km still left to climb, putting closest rival Podagcar into relative trouble. The Slovenian chased back on but Lopez was not going to relent.

He went again and this time it was big. Only Valverde and Roglic responded initially and Rafal Majka of Bora-Hansgrohe chased on eventually, but Pogacar was paying for his efforts, as was Quintana, the big winner of yesterday's windy stage.

By the fast final descent, Lopez had already regained the virtual white best young rider's jersey and was breathing down Quintana's neck for a podium spot. It also helped that those around him cooperated in parts.

Valverde offered up the odd turn - confirming that he was Movistar's team leader, not Quintana - as did Roglic, who was looking more the Vuelta champion with every kilometre that passed.

It was not enough to catch Higuita, who rode alone to victory but enough to see the podium left in the balance with one mountain stage left to race.