Vuelta Rest Day Review

Remco Evenepoel keeps passing every test and now leads the Vuelta by over a minute on Enric Mas with Primož Roglič at almost two minutes. Can he keep it up?

A light look at the Vuelta contenders, I’d like to take a deeper dive but am travelling and have 2G internet access so uploading plain text to the blog is all the bandwidth allows.

Back in 2012 British cycling fans were often occupied by the form of Bradley Wiggins. “Has Bradley Wiggins peaked too soon?” they asked after wins in Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné en route to the Tour de France.

Belgians fans must be wondering if Remco Evenepoel is doing too well, albeit with a different time frame. Not for him a question of whether form in March or June can last to July, instead whether the performances of August can be sustained into early September. Can he parlay his strong start in the Vuelta into the second and third weeks, can he cope with the longer climbs to come and the altitude of the Sierra Nevada next weekend? He keeps passing every test but so did Tom Dumoulin in 2015, until Fabio Aru and Astana sacked him. Evenepoel though is looking more punchy and potent.

So it’s advantage Remco, and then some. Looking back, there was a moment in Utrecht when he sprinted away from his team mates at the finish of the team time trial and in the fading evening light you could see his legs looked different, gone was the jambon look and instead his thighs looked like cured jamón.

He’ll find Tuesday’s time trial to his advantage, it’s as flat as a tortilla and many of his wins have come in time trials, he should extend his lead. The longer climbs are merely longer time trials and he’s been working at altitude prior to the Vuelta. So far so good, the only doubt is whether he’s had to go into the red to put himself in the red, whether the efforts have been so hard that he’ll have to pay later on.

Plus there’s Covid. A Quick Step DS has gone home, now a rider in Pieter Serry. Just mentioning Covid online can be perilous but this much we know: the new coronavirus is persistent and pesky, it is way more contagious and makes ‘flu look old and lazy, and for an endurance athlete trying to perform across three weeks this is potentially ruinous. This adds risk to every race given the propensity to fall ill, to suffer from fatigue.

Enric Mas is waiting. He’s looked spectacular in the past, now he’s consistent and dogged but that’s no bad thing, we might not celebrate his second place last year, or his fourth in the Tour either but these are very solid rides. He can wait like the fox in Aesop’s tale, this time not for the crow to drop the cheese but for the Belgian to drop his maillot rojo. And if this doesn’t happen, no matter. He saves his season with a second place overall and quite possibly saves his Movistar team from relegation. Movistar have every incentive to play it safe and that’s often their house style of racing.

As for all the others, things are tight. Primož Roglič has been consistent so far, down in relative terms but never out. While others have looked good one day, and imploded the next. Ineos are in an interesting position with Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart in great shape and suited to the mountain stages to come but 21 year old Carlos Rodriguez rides high on GC. Similarly UAE have João Almeida sixth on GC but two minutes adrift of teenage wunderkind Juan Ayuso.

Simon Yates is sixth overall and normally not here to cruise around. But after three DNFs in four grand tours, even a solid but discreet overall position is handy for his team as they crave points.

As for the others, Jay Vine told The Cycling Podcast he’s still on the minimum wage, and since he’s not even World Tour, that’s… well a whole blog post of nuance but we’re talking €32,102 as the salary for a non neo-pro on a Pro Conti team. Never mind the exact rate, for someone who can take two stage wins, including one gained after riding away the GC contenders on the final climb, he’s due to add a zero on end, then multiply this. Watch tomorrow’s time trial because he’s ruled himself out of GC but a steady ride here should only add to his value.

Finally a reminder all the stage profiles are on one page at and the Thursday sees the hard climb out of Estepona, then next weekend has the big combo of La Pandera and the Sierra Nevada. Belgian fans, and the rest of us, will know a lot more this time next week.

24 thoughts on “Vuelta Rest Day Review”

  1. Up to now I have been somewhat dubious of the Remco Evenepoel hype but over the past week he seems to be delivering. What has impressed me is how he has ridden away from the opposition without seeming to put in additional effort, just a steady pace the others cant live with. Still plenty of time for things to change (pretty sure he has never finished at GT) but the race does seem his to lose if he can stay healthy.

    Primoz Roglic does not look to be in top shape, we shall see in the TT tomorrow. Perhaps Ineos should have picked another of their younger riders rather than Richard Carapaz, he seems to be thinking of pastures new already, I wonder if he will ever be a realistic GT contender again. Good to see a number of Spanish riders in with a shout, 3 of the top 5, rather different to recent Giros & Tours.

  2. The remark about Evenepoel’s legs rang true. Looking at the shot of him in red coming home in stage 9 the other day I thought “he’s lost his baby fat”. I don’t mean to reinforce all the problems with body issues in cycling; he just looks lean, which must translate into climbing ability.

    But we’ll see. I still think Roglic wins, but I’m biased. What is up with his team, though? I can’t get a sense of that, since I have had worse internet that Mssr. (?) Inrng here in the remote valleys of Montana, so I have not seen a minute of this Vuelta. But it’s been fun to follow like we used to follow baseball in the papers…

  3. Evenepoel really is going like a train … and he has Alaphilippe setting him up whilst JV riders are dropping like flies.
    The heat may pose some different questions this week but it is hard to see Evenepoel loosing from here.
    Good to see all the young new faces emerge though.

  4. ” 2G internet access” – I thought that bad cell service only existed in the least populated state of the US. Perhaps Inrng was secretly attending the Fed meeting in Jackson Hole?

    • Sometimes incompatibility might happen when roaming. I had such a problem in the Czech Republic recently. Bulgaria has very fast 3G networks, so I didn’t even realize that I’m using an old 3g SIM that does not support the current high speed data technologies as my local mobile was blazing fast on 3G anyway. However the Czech Republic is already getting rid of its old 3G network, so I was stuck in 2G as my ancient SIM could not connect to anything better.

      • Was just in a remote corner of the French Alps, the kind of place where you can hear wolves howling at night and it’s news when a car drives along the valley. There’s no commercial telecoms service there, just the “France Contact” 2G service… now down in a busier area.

        • Sounds like the kind of place where most of the time one would not care about the data service at all.

          It’s amazing and humbling that you were at such a location and still found the will and time to write something up for us to enjoy!

  5. Getting ahead of things but starting to imagine an Evenepoel, Pogacar and Vingegaard TdF for 2023. Vingegaard has the best team for support but Evenepoel seems to be dominating a good GT field with ease. As IR says, can he maintain that over three weeks and also could he cope with the TdF’s emotional pressure? A weakness might be overconfidence and a desire to show off his strength even when he doesn’t need(witness the 2021 world’s).

    I’ve already made my choice of rider to support. The most likeable (Pogi).

    • It’s indeed getting ahead. Let’s see how he’s fares by the end of the Vuelta. However, I agree that the new crop of talent promises very exciting racing in the years to come.

      • Yep, if Evenepoel does go to the TdF it should be interesting. If Pogacar can get more then 2 helpers and can use his head, I’ll put him as favourite though.
        Let’s hope that Covid does not rear it’s ugly little head again at the Vuelta – Ethan Hayter is the latest to go home after a positive test.

  6. Throw in a recovered Bernal, a maturing Ayuso, an emerging Uijtdebroeks and even a GC focused Pidcock and it does seem we may be on the verge of a very intriguing era. Unfortunately in reality we rarely get to see all the best riders all in top form at the same event (and when we get something like it, crashes inevitably intervene). There are simply too many variables. It was only a few years back (2014/15?) that many column inches were lavished on the prospect of a battle royale between 4 galacticos (Nibali, Froome, Quintana and Contador) that never really happened.

    The endless variability of this bait-and-switch soap opera tease is, of course, a significant part of the attraction of the sport for many hardened fanatics…..and this is to say nothing of the current scenario where COVID threatens to decide not only the Veulta but the World Tour team promotion/relegation battle too!

    • It appears that my hope for no more Covid positives is dashed. Bennett out too, so Pedersen needs just to stay covid free to keep the Green Jersey.

  7. Stage 10 – ITT – Wow! Roglic at 2mins 40 secs everyone else over 3 mins. This is going to take a “Yates 2018 Giro type” meltdown to stop Remco, or some innovative team tactics.

  8. Not being aCovid Sceptical ( in bed with something possible myself) but what is actually happening? Are riders being sent home because of a positive test rather than feeling ill? Because two of the top performers in the time trial were sent home the next day, I would have thought it would be hard to ride so well while incubating.

    Fingers crossed for Remco, but losing Alaphillipe must be a serious blow. Roglic is lurking , I think.

    • So you think it’s better to let them stay in the race and infect more team members, staff or others?
      I guess most of teams won’t take that risk, and they’re damn right about it.

  9. Most of the 23 or 24 riders who have had to DNS have been symptom-free, I believe.
    If the first test is positive, a second sample is taken, just in case the first positive was false.

    During the Tour there was talk that a panel of three doctors could allow a rider to continue, if the ? level of a positive test wasn’t too high? and if the rider had no symptoms. This was a policy approved by UCI and it would strike me as odd if it is different here. Unless there is a sound medical reason behind it, a fundamental change in how doctors view the test results or something…

  10. Society has moved on, cycling has not, as another website put it in reagrds to covid. There are three mandatory tests from the organisation during the race. The teams don’t have to test the riders [outside of the mandatory tests] but they do.
    The Vuelta’s race director Javier Guillén confirmed in an interview with the Spanish host broadcaster RTVE that in the event of a positive test teams confirm the result via a PCR test, and if the viral load is low enough, the affected rider can continue to race.

    But Guillén adds: “The problem is that when the positive is detected in the morning, there’s not the time to get the PCR results before the stage starts. We would have to let them start without knowing the viral load and still they [teams] are not willing to do that.”
    So the teams are doing all the extra testing during the race without knowing the complete results which is why riders are getting upset.

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