Primoz Roglic has won La Vuelta a España, claiming his second Grand Tour victory, and redeeming himself after dramatically falling short in the Tour de France. Roglic, who won the first stage to take the leader’s red jersey, led for much of the race, and this victory confirms his place amongst one of the strongest riders in the world at this moment. His closest rival, Ineos’ Richard Carapaz, only led the race when Roglic lost time putting on his rain jacket on stage 6, and on stage 12 when the peloton ascended the Alto de l’Angliru.
Roglic regained the race lead on the following stage’s time trial and, whilst his lead over Carapaz remained under a minute, climbing opportunities were limited in the final week. The Ecuadorian’s attack on the penultimate stage up La Covatilla did not prove enough to overhaul Roglic’s race lead, bringing an exciting conclusion to 2020’s compressed cycling calendar.
The race was also marked by the combativity of British-born riders. After Dani Martinez and Michael Woods crashed on Stage One, team leadership of EF-Pro Cycling passed to 26-year-old Hugh Carthy. Known for his laconic turn of phrase and gangly riding style, Carthy announced himself at this level with a victory on Angliru which propelled him to third place on the General Classification, a place he held until Madrid. This meant he finished one position ahead of Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin.
The Israel Start-Up nation rider, a former combativity prize winner at the Tour de France, also claimed a stage win early on and his fourth place may well represent his career-best Grand Tour result. When Chris Froome joins the Israel Start-Up Nation next year, Martin’s Grand Tour ambitions are expected to be tempered by domestique duties. In this edition, Froome rode in support of Carapaz and, whilst Ineos got stronger as the race progressed, Carapaz frequently found himself isolated whilst climbing. This highlighted the team’s inferiority in depth of riders in comparison to Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma support riders this year.
Roglic also claimed the points classification, with Movistar’s Enric Mas winning the white jersey for best young rider. The oldest rider in the race, 40-year-old former Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde finished tenth, helping to secure Movistar’s victory in the team classification. Meanwhile, Guillaume Martin repaid the faith his Cofidis team had shown him in the Tour de France by winning the polka dot mountains classification jersey. In a race favouring breakaway specialists over sprinters, Remi Cavagna won the overall combativity prize, despite not winning a stage.
Speaking to the media, Carthy was pleased he’d been able to demonstrate his ability in the race and credited his teammates for their support. “I wasn’t the rider they were hoping to protect for three weeks, but I’m happy I could prove to them that their effort was worth it.” Roglic was pleased to have secured victory, stating “What can I say? I’m super happy, and [it’s] a really nice way to end the season.”
This year’s edition, delayed by coronavirus, is the only Grand Tour to have ever been raced in November and the wind and rain posed additional challenges to the riders. The Grand Depart was scheduled to take place in the Netherlands, but travel restrictions led to a reduced 18-stage edition across northern Spain before a long transfer to Madrid for the finale. Covid ‘bubbles’ implemented here were far stricter than the Tour and the Giro, a decision which appears to have been vindicated by the absence of positive tests. This contrasts to the other grand tours which were affected by riders and support staff contracting Covid.
Image: F. Boyssurt via Creative Commons