Terror on the Covatilla.
Primoz Roglic had a major scare on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana when Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) rode away from him on the upper slopes of the Alto de la Covatilla.
The Slovenien’s 45 second buffer was disappearing rapidly as Carapaz made his bid to arrive in Madrid in red. He opened a large gap and quickly slicing the deficit in half as Roglic struggled.
Just as terrifying, Roglic had already lost his guardian angel Sepp Kuss. The American super-climber finally ran out of gas when Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) and Enric Mas (Movistar) blew up the small group of GC contenders. Out the back went Kuss and Martin, up the road went Carapaz, and later, Carthy.
It was deja vu all over again, a frightening “Tour time trial flashback” with a funereal headline that read Roglic Loses Vuelta on Final Summit Climb.
The Covatilla is 11.4 kilometers of agony with ramps up to ten and twelve percent. Carapaz was flying and Roglic was dying and the GC was turning upside down.
If you were Primoz, you’d be in a panic.
Weather conditions throughout the stage were cold, overcast and wet but in the final kilometers the sun suddenly appeared. Roglic’s prospects also brightened when he made contact with his teammate Lennard Hofstede, who’d dropped back from the early break. He didn’t have much to give but gave it his all. It was a short pull at the two kilometer mark but helped stabilize the gap to Carapaz at around 20 seconds.
The possibility that Carapaz could take 10 bonus seconds by winning the stage was also a scary thought. Sadly for the Ineos-Grenadiers captain, there were still three riders from the break up front. Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu took his second victory of this Vuelta — and the time bonus while Gino Mäder (NTT Pro Cycling) and Ion Izaguirre Insausti (Astana Pro Team) snapped up the leftovers.
Roglic would say after the finish that he wasn’t nervous or struggling, that all he had to do was stay within himself. “I had just enough so that I knew that if I rode at my tempo then it should be enough,” he said. “The finish was good – I wasn’t always in control but then in the end at some point, you need to just do your thing.”
With a strong sprint to the line, Roglic kept a lead of 24 seconds and will win the Vuelta a Espana. Yes, it was a scary moment but with a happy ending.