After Sergio Higuita’s big win, the team came into stage 19 with smiles on their faces and renewed motivation and hunger for more. On paper, as has often been the case for much of this Vuelta, the stage looked fairly straight forward, one categorized climb in the beginning, 110-kilometers of flat in the middle, and a short, but intense cobbled climb at the end. But even so, with only two stages left in the 2019 Vuelta a España, the stage had tell tale signs that it was going to be a hotly contested one.
A 13 rider breakaway formed on the initial climb of the day. The group included many strong riders including our own Lawson Craddock who has time and time again tried his luck in the breakaway.
“To be honest, I woke up today and didn’t think much about today’s stage,” Craddock said post race. “I don’t think enough can be said about the leadership from Juanma [Garate] and Ken [Vanmarcke]. They saw another unique opportunity for us to get a result today and that was to get into the breakaway and they called it perfectly.”
By now the peloton knows that wishing for an easier stage never seems to materialize during this Grand Tour, and today was no different. In the last 100 kilometers there was a downpour, strong winds and a crash with 65km to go. Race leader, Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) and best young rider Miguel Ángel López (Team Astana) went down in the crash which led to chaos on the road as riders scrambled to keep up with a charging Team Movistar. Ultimately, the peloton was able to reorganize and began reeling in the breakaway who had powered on mostly unnoticed by the pack.
Exposed and undulating roads saw the gap to the breakaway rapidly drop and with 24-kilometers remaining, Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) launched an attack to stave off the peloton that was closing in behind. Craddock and two other riders tried to catch him in the last ten kilometers but their efforts were in vain. The peloton caught Craddock’s group at the base of the final climb but fell short of catching Cavagna, who had paced his effort perfectly crossing the line five seconds ahead of a big group of favorites, which included our own Sergio Higuita.
“Today I was just wanting to hang in there, especially after the effort of yesterday really cleaned me out. I just needed to see how the body was feeling, and we’ll see how it feels tomorrow and if it’s possible to challenge again,” said Higuita.
Tomorrow is the last mountain stage of the Vuelta before the processional sprint stage into Madrid on Sunday. A big general classification battle over six categorized climbs is expected tomorrow in what is sure to be another grueling stage.