Triple Vuelta a España winner Primož Roglič made his biggest statement of intent to date in this year’s race on Saturday as the Slovenian powered to his eleventh Vuelta stage victory of his career ahead of arch-rival Remco Evenpoel (Soudal-Quick Step).
Evenepoel was clearly on a much better day at the Xorret de Catí than when he veered perilously close to cracking at the Javalambre, one of Roglič’s teammates Sepp Kuss has moved into the overall lead and double Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard remained comfortably in the front group of favourites as well.
Roglič was unable to get on terms with Evenepoel at the small group sprint on the opening summit finish in Arinsal on stage 3, very possibly because of a nasty crash and hip injury incurred the day before. But at Catí as he powered past the Belgian with 100 metres to go, it was another story for the Slovenian champion.
Roglič has now taken a stage win in every Vuelta he has raced and after Kuss triumphed at Javalambre, Jumbo-Visma’s second mountain top victory in three days.
While Jumbo-Visma’s four riders in the mass breakaway at Javalambre had been instrumental in keeping the move clear on stage 6, on Saturday Roglič’s teammates Dylan Van Baarle, Robert Gesink and Wilco Kelderman worked hard in the bunch had ensured a similarly large early attack failed to stay away – and that Roglič could go for the win.
“That was our plan before the stage,” Roglič told reporters afterwards, “and you always hope for the best.
“The way the guys worked so hard was amazing, pulling all day to bring back such a strong breakaway, and controlling it all the way. I had no option but to go for the win at the end.”
“It was a very hard climb, and this was the first time I did it, so I didn’t really know what was ahead, it’s always a bit of a gamble with the sprint. But I had the legs and I could do it.”
Unlike Evenepoel, who said he had no idea if anybody was left in the break ahead when they sprinted for the line, Roglič said he was aware that he was going for the win.
“Our guys had worked so hard to bring back the break,” he said, “so I knew.”
Kuss’s position atop the GC and Vingegaard’s solid performances mean the jury is still out on who the Jumbo-Visma leader for the Vuelta ultimately might be, and Roglič, now seventh overall, brushed aside the question with a joke.
“We have at least three GC leaders, no?” he said with a grin. “But maybe still someone else is…