Gilbert, the expert
September 5 th 2019 - 17:16
An extremely dynamic day of racing in the basque hills has seen Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) outplay his rivals to solo to victory in Bilbao. The Belgian star claims his 6th La Vuelta stage win, ahead of the Basque rider Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA). The battle went on for the whole stage, as it took more than 100 kilometres for the attackers to break away from the bunch. The favorites also had a dig at each other but Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) showed no sign of weakness. He retains La Roja on the eve of the infamous climb up Los Machucos.
Riders anticipated a nervous day with wind exposed roads and a very tricky finale. It shows on the road - attacks fly non-stop from the start but nobody manages to stay ahead of the bunch until Willie Smit (Katusha-Alpecin) opens a small gap in a downhill section after 100km. He is joined by 18 more attackers: José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar Team), Manuele Boaro (Astana Pro Team), Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida), Felix Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Fran Ventoso (CCC Team), Philippe Gilbert, Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott), Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), John Degenkolb, Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), Valerio Conti, Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), Alex Aranburu, Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Fernando Barcelo and Cyril Barthe (Euskadi-Murias).
Lopez tries, Roglic resists
The peloton finally lets them go and the gap is up to 4’20” as the attackers storm into the last 50km. Marco Marcato drives the breakaway for Valerio Conti. Felix Grosschartner accelerates in the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto el Vivero (4.3km, 7.7%). Tsgabu Grmay joins him in the final kilometre of ascent. Their chasers trail by 40” at the summit, 26.6km away from the summit. The gap to the bunch is slightly down: 3’47”.
The chasers get back to the leading duo at the bottom of the mighty Alto de Arraiz: 2.2km at 12.2%. Philippe Gilbert accelerates twice and drops everyone 1.3km away from the summit. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) attacks but Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and the rest of the GC contenders follow. Philippe Gilbert holds on to a 3” lead to snatch the win ahead of Alex Aranburu. The peloton crosses the line with a delay of 3’ and Primoz Roglic retains La Roja.