Classification leader Primoz Roglic did good business on Thursday in the penultimate mountain stage of the Vuelta a España. Wilco Kelderman from Team Sunweb had a very difficult day. The stage win was for EF Education First's Sergio Higuita.
Jumbo-Visma leader won one day after Wednesday's much-discussed stage at Nairo Quintana from Movistar, the number two in the rankings. With three days to go, world champion Alejandro Valverde (+2.48) is now his main threat.
The stage of over 177 kilometers between Colmenar Viejo and Becerrol de la Sierra, with four cols of the first category, was mainly colored by Miguel Ángel López from Astana. He drove offensively, gained time on, among others, Quintana and Tadej Pogacar and rose from fifth to fourth place in the rankings.
Kelderman experienced a very difficult day. The leader of Team Sunweb had done good business on Wednesday by rising to sixth place in the rankings, but this time was unable to follow the best and had to drop out early.
There are three more stages to go in the Vuelta. On Friday a relatively flat ride over 165 kilometers from Ávila to Toledo will follow, after which another mountain stage and a flat ride to Madrid are on the program.
Poels succeeds in escape attempt
From the first moment on Thursday riders made an attempt to get away from the pack and Wout Poels was the first to have a serious gap on behalf of Team INEOS. The Limburger held out for a long time and was the first to reach the Puerto de Navacerrada, the first climb of the day.
Behind Poels it remained uneasy and that eventually led to twelve riders joining the leader of Team INEOS. The thirteen received the blessing of the peloton, where Jumbo-Visma took charge.
After a somewhat quieter period it went wild in the peloton on the Puerto de la Morcuera, the third climb of the day. An acceleration from Astana led to an attack by López, who left the thinned group of favorites - including Kelderman - to let go.
López coup failed
With the help of a teammate who let himself fall back, López seemed to be working on a successful coup, but when he climbed the final climb, he was again caught in the collar by the group of favorites, including Roglic.
Higuita had seized power at the head of the race. The young Colombian made a hole in the descent and built up a nice margin compared to a group with Poels.
On the Puerto de Cotos, the last pass of the day, the group merged with favorites and the Poels group, leaving only the very best: Roglic, López and Valverde. Pogacar and Quintana had to fit.
Together with the affiliated Rafal Majka, Roglic, López and Valverde headed for the finish, with only Higuita still moving ahead. The Colombian was allowed to book his first victory.