Vuelta diary, Stage 19: Gilbert wins again
In what was a very entertaining stage, Belgian classics superstar Philippe Gilbert took the stage win, his second of the Vuelta thus far, with a vicious attack just 500m from the line.
Sensing an opportunity to record his second Grand Tour stage win in the space of 10 days, Gilbert launched a strong attack inside the last kilometre of the stage.
While many strong riders, including the likes of Ben Swift, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde, tried to mow down the BMC rider, their efforts amounted to nothing, with Gilbert taking the stage win with relative ease.
Last night’s stage win brings Gilbert’s career Grand Tour stage tally to seven; a remarkable feat for any rider, and a true testament of his undoubted class.
On another note, thanks to winning the second intermediate sprint of the day, as well as finishing second in the stage, Alejandro Valverde gained 17 seconds on red jersey holder, Alberto Contador.
While 17 seconds isn’t too much, it could make all the difference if Contador has an off day in the mountains tomorrow. This is a very realistic scenario, considering tomorrow’s stage features three Category 1 climbs and an H category climb to the finish – a stage where the Vuelta can easily be turned on its head.
While also keeping in the hunt for the Vuelta title, Valverde’s time gaps gained in today’s stage has also taken him a step further to sewing up his second place over compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez.
The Movistar rider gained 10 seconds on the Katusha leader in today’s stage, bringing his general classification advantage over him to a solid 46 seconds.
But where would we be without Philippe Gilbert? With his constant attacking riding breaking up the peloton, Gilbert has always brought us great entertainment throughout what at first seem to be meaningless transitional stages.
After a great 2011 season, where the Belgian recorded a page long list of victories, Gilbert struggled throughout the early part of 2012 without any victories before the Vuelta.
However the Belgian is well and truly back to his best, after two breath taking attacks in Stages 9 and 19 respectively gave him two stage wins during this year’s race.
We all know what Gilbert is capable of and, if he can stay at the top of his game for the next few weeks, we could well see Gilbert notching up his first World Road Race Championship title in less than two weeks, in the Netherlands.
While Stage 19 was without a doubt a great stage, Stage 20 tonight is set to smash it for pure attacking cycling action, where the riders will be fighting to the death for any advantage they can gain in what is the penultimate stage of the Vuelta.
If Contador is even slightly out of touch, the general classification is sure to be turned on its head in what is without a doubt the toughest stage of the Vuelta. This truly is the defining stage, and the one we have been waiting for.
Stage 19 ‘unsung hero’: Joaquim Rodriguez. Despite more than two and a half minutes down on race leader Alberto Contador before today’s stage, Rodriguez refused to give in.
The 33 year old fought hard to gain 10 bonus seconds in the second intermediate sprint of the day, before finishing fourth in the stage to just miss out on the six bonus seconds available for third place. Well done Rodriguez for showing great fighting spirit.
Stage 19 results:
1 GILBERT, Philippe BMC 4h 56′ 25”
2 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV m.t. 1º
3 MORENO, Daniel KAT m.t. 1º
4 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT m.t. 1º
5 MEERSMAN, Gianni LTB + 3”
6 MOLLEMA, Bauke RAB + 3”
7 SWIFT, Ben SKY + 3”
8 BAKELANTS, Jan RNT + 3”
9 NOCENTINI, Rinaldo ALM + 3”
10 HENAO, Sergio Luis SKY + 3′
1 CONTADOR, Alberto STB 77h 21′ 49”
2 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV + 1′ 35”
3 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT + 2′ 21”
4 FROOME, Christopher SKY + 9′ 48”
5 MORENO, Daniel KAT + 11′ 29”
6 GESINK, Robert RAB + 12′ 00”
7 TEN DAM, Laurens RAB + 12′ 58”
8 TALANSKY, Andrew GRS + 13′ 09”
9 ANTON, Igor EUS + 13′ 52”
10 INTXAUSTI, Beñat MOV + 15′ 13”