The scenario could hardly have been better: Jumbo-Visma had let the breakaway build up an insurmountable lead to relieve their man from the burdens of post-stage press conferences during what was always going to be a transitional week of La Vuelta – a week to survive before the proper battles resumed in the Asturias and beyond.
Primoz Roglic, however, wanted more. His attack on the Puerto de Almachar, which the peloton reached a full 12 minutes after the 31 riders up the road, distanced his three nearest challengers while hammering a nail into the coffin of any lingering hopes Ineos Grenadiers harboured in their faltering duo of Egan Bernal and Adam Yates.
Vuelta a España
Stage 11 LIVE – Will there be surprise attacks on hilly stage to Valdepenas de Jaen?
11 HOURS AGO
Roglic’s lead over the top was merely 15 seconds or so over Enric Mas, Miguel Angel Lopez and Jack Haig – but the defending champion had the luxury of knowing that even on the day he purposefully conceded the red jersey, his ultimate grip on that same red jersey never looked stronger.
But then he pushed things too far, descending less like a man on his way to a third successive Vuelta triumph than with all the sketchiness of Remi Cavagna in the Tour of California in 2019. The Slovenian had already taken some seriously dodgy lines into a number of corners before he lost control and skidded in the gravel on the tight right-hander.
‘The hunt for seconds is dangerous!’ – Roglic crashes trying to put time into rivals
Roglic seemed fine as he remounted but all the not inconsiderable effort that he put into putting the chasing trio under pressure came to nought after the Movistar duo of Mas and Lopez returned to his wheel alongside Haig of Bahrain Victorious.
“Without the crash it would have been even better, huh?” Roglic told reporters in Rincon de la Victoria after he came home in a select group 11:49 down on the stage winner Michael Storer of Team DSM to concede the race lead to Norway’s Odd Christian Eiking. “It’s not too bad. That was some action, huh? Why not [try it]? No risk, no glory.
“It’s not too bad,” he said when quizzed about his injuries. “I just mostly slide, so should be fine, hopefully.” He echoed this with teammate Sepp Kuss whom he told, “No, it’s nothing,” as he glugged down a carton of restorative orange juice.
‘No risk, no glory!’ – Roglic on Stage 10 crash
Roglic dropped to third overall at 2:17 after his complicit surrender of the maillot rojo – but he will take confidence not only from surviving his scare but gaining a further 37 seconds on both Bernal and Yates. It seems that Ineos Grenadiers, even on a day Roglic crashes, cannot take any positives from an increasingly frustrating Vuelta.
The point where we’re in the race, the advantage that he’s got, the way the team is riding – attacking on the climb, okay, that’s one thing, but going down that descent and taking that risk… That crash – he could have broken a collarbone or done major damage and be out of the race.
After all, the fall was not too dissimilar from the one that saw Alejandro Valverde crash out of the race just four days earlier – to the point that there was even a noticeable gap in the barriers just moments before Roglic hit the deck.
To Kelly, it was not worth Roglic’s trouble throwing everything away for very little gain – especially given how dominant he performed over the weekend in the mountains and with that final time trial for him to fall back on. “I ask myself, ‘why take the risk?’ If it finished at the top of the climb then I can understand taking those 10 or 15 seconds. But taking the risk on that descent… mad stuff.”
‘Taking that risk on the descent…mad stuff!’ – Kelly on Roglic risk-taking
So, why did he do it? Perhaps he simply smelt blood and went for it. Perhaps he made a call and saw an opportunity to put the race out of his rival’s reach before the halfway point – with the same kind of ruthlessness that we saw with his compatriot Tadej Pogacar at the Tour de France, a race he effectively led by five minutes after the first rest day.
We’ve all been in that position when we have what seems to be quite a while to plough through a huge to-do list. Instead of getting it all done when we can, we procrastinate and put it off again and again, have it linger over us and weigh us down – only to have a frantic rush to finish it all up before deadline day or before the wedding or the flight away on holiday or the baby’s arrival…
Such is the course of the Vuelta this year – and such is his opposition – Roglic could easily play the long game before turning the screw in the final 32km race against the clock at Santiago de Compostela. Perhaps this was simply Roglic telling himself to get all those chores sorted a week or so in advance. Bish, bash, bosh.
In that light, it was quite admirable of him to go all in. As Roche said: “For the last decade we’ve been complaining about GC riders not attacking – and now we have a GC rider attacking, and we’re saying he shouldn’t! Apparently, he talked with his team, so it was planned – it wasn’t just a statement. Someone just racing with his heart and going for it – yeah, why not? Fair play to him. He took a chance, it didn’t work out.”
‘We’ve been complaining that GC riders don’t attack’ – Roche after Roglic spill
There’s a fine line between taking a chance and taking a risk, though. And gambling by putting everything on red at the halfway point when the gains were so small – well, that’s rather blinkered to say the least. Especially in the light of Roglic’s recent track record of crashing out of the Tour, of crashing out of yellow on the final day of the Dauphiné, of crashing out of contention in the Giro two years ago. A pattern is emerging – and it doesn’t shed Roglic’s actions in a positive light.
And that’s exactly the thing: going for broke at this point in the race was quite unlike Roglic – not just historically, but also contemporarily. This year he seemed to be riding the Vuelta in a much more calculated and considered way: not making any significant efforts where he doesn’t need to, allowing others like Magnus Cort steal the limelight, and not putting his body under any unnecessary pressure. But what seemed to be a calculated response to the not entirely untrue assessment that Roglic often tapers off in a Grand Tour went up in smoke on the descent of the Puerto de Almachar.
Time will tell whether the fall takes its toll on Roglic’s already recovering body – especially with Wednesday’s short but rolling 133km Stage 11 prime ambush territory for those wishing to cause an upset.
What we can be certain of is that the crash unintentionally stole the limelight away from the big winners of the day, namely the new man in red, Eiking, his nearest challenger, the Frenchman Guillaume Martin, and the rider first over the line, Storer.
‘The boy from Perth is going to do it again!’ – Storer doubles up on Stage 10 as Eiking takes red
Baby-faced assassin Storer had no pro wins to his name a month ago; he now has four, the two most recent coming just four days apart in the Vuelta. The 24-year-old from Perth showed maturity, grit and tactical acumen – not simply to get into a huge 31-man move that took 80 pulsating kilometres to form, but to attack at the right time and then hold off a stellar chase group to take a win for Team DSM.
Eiking, who started the day 9:10 down in the general classification, suddenly finds himself 58 seconds clear at the top of the table after delivering his Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert team a second red jersey of the race following Rein Taaramae’s earlier dispossession of Roglic in the opening week.
Then there’s that man Martin of Cofidis. Considered a potential GC man until recently, the 28-year-old has entered both the Tour and Vuelta this year in the hunt of stage wins over leaders’ jerseys and top 10 finishes. But in both events now he has jumped to second place in the standings – yet missed out on the stage win he so covets – after finding himself in the right place at the right time on the right day.
Does Martin now refocus and use his climbing ability to build on his career-high eighth place finish in July’s Tour, or does he pursue that elusive stage win? To do so, he’ll have to do a Mikel Landa and concede a lot of time – otherwise he’ll find himself a marked man. After all, he’s now 1:19 ahead of Primoz Roglic, the favourite to win this Vuelta despite his best efforts to throw it all away in a rush of blood to the head on Stage 10.
Roglic’s fall was a timely reminder of how his apparent dominance remains very fragile. Enric Mas remains just 28 seconds in arrears and he and Movistar teammate Miguel Angel Lopez may well have seen a chink in their rival’s armour on the day he almost put them to the sword.
Vuelta a España
‘No risk, no glory!’ – Roglic unrepentant after Stage 10 crash
11 HOURS AGO
Vuelta a España
‘Mad stuff!’ – Kelly on Roglic’s Stage 10 descent antics
12 HOURS AGO
Source: Euro Sports