Sergio Higuita continues to impress. The Grand Tour first-timer was tasked with getting into the Vuelta a España stage 13 breakaway. When the 29-man move took shape after 40-kilometers of racing, the Colombian was there.
“We planned exactly that – to have Sergio or Dani [Martínez] in the break, or both,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “The other three guys, they helped Sergio and Dani to be in the break. Sergio made it. He fought hard all day, but the break was so big and there was never any agreement. Everyone was jumping and attacking all the time.”
Friday’s 166-kilometer route suited the strongest climbers. The stage ended atop a leg-breaker: the hors categorie Los Machucos. The seve-kilometer climb averages over 10 percent gradient with multiple sections of 25 percent gradient. Before the final climb, the peloton faced six additional categorized climbs, four third-category and two second-category.
“The stage was really, really, really hard,” said Higuita. “The breakaway used a lot of energy to fight for a maximum gap.”
By the mid-point of the stage, Higuita looked in for a shot at the white best young rider’s jersey, but a lack of cooperation in the group spelled an end to his chances.
“Sergio was the strongest on paper, the best-placed on the general classification, and the other guys in the break were all looking at him,” said Garate. “He did some really nice moves, a strong ride. He was smart the whole day.”
The breakaway split apart several times throughout the stage, and with the final climb looming, the peloton, led by Astana, was closing in on the fractured breakaway.
Héctor Sáez (Euskadi Basque Country – Murias) was the first to hit the final climb, with a small gap on Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ). Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale) followed. Higuita was in a larger chase group of six, riding three minutes of what was left of the red jersey group.
“The group with Sergio arrived with a small gap,” said Garate. “It wasn’t enough after spending the whole day in the breakaway.”
“I was starting to get tired at that point,” said Higuita. “The final climb was so hard and so steep, and the general classification favorites were coming. Still I continued to fight.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE) won a late race battle with compatriot Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to take the victory. Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) was the first finisher from the breakaway, third across the line. Higuita managed 15th place, 1’25 behind Pogačar.
“This is my first Vuelta,”
said Higuita. “I’m enjoying it and suffering a lot. I have to keep fighting.”
Although the third stage of the Vuelta a España ended in a bunch sprint in…