You gotta feel for Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). He thought he basically had stage 13 and the last three 3k’s in the bag, Vuelta victory with his name on it.
He’d done a lot of work to power the jumbo-sized Vuelta break and kept killing off rivals until it was down to just himself and Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing). On the final, painfully steep gradients of La Camperona — a climb with bike-stopping 20% grades, he rightly figured that Teuns was the weaker climber and the laws of gravity would go into effect.
Instead, some Basque kid from the underfunded, just-happy-to-be-in-the-race, Euskadi-Murias squad has the temerity to crawl his way up to Majka and Teuns. It was bad enough having young Oscar Rodriguez in his screaming bright neon green jersey just hanging on your wheel. Things got much worse.
Then the upstart, who hasn’t won anything worth even a small footnote, proceeds to drop Majka and a struggling Teuns in the final kilometer like he was prime Alberto Contador, soloing to a shocker win, large bump in salary and maybe a ride with a WorldTour team.
All of that is immensely irritating to a veteran pro like Majka who had spent mucho energy in a number of Vuelta breaks trying to grab a stage win. He’s grinding away, working his ass off, and this pup comes along and steals the tasty bone.
Still, Majka was surprisingly even-keeled and philosophical about the ugly reversal in fortune. “Actually I’m surprised by this guy because in the end, when he caught me with Teuns, I still had good legs, but this guy when he was coming, he was coming really fast,” said Majka. “This is cycling.”
For his part, after the stage Rodriguez was still questioning what exactly had happened. “I can’t believe I’ve taken a professional win, let alone a stage at the Vuelta,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t believe I was going to win until the very end, and I still can’t believe it.” Ahh, kids — something charming about that starry-eyed attitude.
Another day in the Vuelta and another surprise. Admit that when you saw that double-stage winner Ben King (Dimension Data) was also in the break, the wild thought crossed your mind that King might even win again. That’s the Helta Skelta Vuelta.
Nope, it wasn’t King but it was just as unexpected. Oscar Rodriguez had his magical ride in his home grand tour.