Lopez tries, Higuita succeeds
September 12 th 2019 - 17:28
It was another gruelling day on stage 18 with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) trying to make the most of climbing-packed route with multiple attacks. The Colombian ‘Superman’ launched his first move with 60km to go but Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) matched everyone of his attack to retain La Roja. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) faded and dropped a minute. Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) attacked in the first climb of the day and was the only attacker able to resist the GC contenders to claim his maiden Grand Tour stage win at 22 years old, after some impressive racing at the front.
On the day after a crazy stage through the wind, the riders are ready for more battle in the mountains. Jumbo-Visma try to control the early part of the race but attacks start flying after 3km and it takes dozens of kilometres for the situation to settle. Wout Poels (Team Ineos) attacks just ahead of the Puerto de Navacerrada (11.8km, 6.3%). He rides the full climb on his own at the front while attacks keep flying from a reduced bunch.
Astana take over
Twelve riders successively join Wout Poels at the front: Nelson Oliveira (Movistar Team), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Astana Pro Team), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida), Jonas Koch (CCC Team), Sergio Higuita (EF Education First), Tobias Ludvigson (Groupama-FDJ), Nick Shultz (Mitchelton-Scott), Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos), Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma) and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias). They open a 5’ lead to the bunch in the second climb of the day, the Puerto de la Morcuera, summited first by Geoffrey Bouchard to secure the Polka-dot jersey one more day.
Astana accelerate in the second ascent of the Puerto de la Morcuera and Miguel Angel Lopez attacks with 60km to go. Bouchard claims 10 more KOM points at the summit. Lopez only trails by 1’03” and the Roglic group, reduced to a handful of riders, is 19” further behind. Lopez joins Omar Fraile in the downhill and they increase their lead to 30”. Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless drive the Roglic group and Lopez is caught with 38km to go. Sergio Higuita is the only rider still at the front, with a lead of 1’06”.
Higuita soloes to victory
Lopez attacks again and again in the final climb. Primoz Roglic, Alejandro Valverde and Rafal Majka are the only ones able to follow him. At the summit (26.3km to go), Higuita holds on to a 47” lead. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) trails by 17”. And Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) is 26” further behind with Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) and Louis Meintjes. They get back to Pogacar with 20km to go.
Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) holds on to a 15” gap to claim his maiden Grand Tour victory at 22 years old. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) leads the GC group through the line. Nairo Quintana and Tadej Pogacar finish with a 59” delay. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) moves to 2nd on GC, ahead of Quintana and 2’50” behind Roglic, and Lopez takes the white jersey from Pogacar’s shoulders.