GC battle ends Howson’s hopes on stage 13 of La Vuelta

Fri 6 Sep 2019

Stage 13 of La Vuelta a Espana descended into a general classification battle as Australian Damien Howson and the rest of the break were swept up on the final climb.

It had looked as though the breakaway would fight it out for victory yet again, but a late increase in pace back in the peloton saw the GC favourites race past the escapees on the ascent to the summit finish.

Fast and Frantic

There was another long wait for the breakaway to form as the bunch headed out of Bilbao, with a move finally sticking over the top of the first of seven categorised climbs on the day’s route to Los Machucos. Monumento Vaca Pasiega. Howson was joined in the move by Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay who made it into the break for the second day running.

The 29-rider escape opened up a gap of over three minutes over the second climb, but as they reached the category-two Collado del Ason, they began to attack each other. Several small groups managed to get away, but it was back together on the run into next ascent, with Grmay and a host of other riders distanced by the surge in pace.

It wasn’t long before the attack started again and a lone rider managed to get away, opening up a sizeable gap over the penultimate climb on an 18-rider chase group that contained Howson.

Not Over Yet

The day still looked like it would be one for the breakaway, however the pace had been increased back in the bunch and the gap to the front of the race began shrink rapidly. By the time the remains of the break hit the foot of the final climb, the bunch were within touching distance, with just three riders remaining ahead.

Howson and the majority of the break were then swept up as race leader Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) went clear with the later taking the win ahead of his fellow countryman. Meanwhile Basque rider Mikel Nieve was the first rider home for Mitchelton-SCOTT in 18th place after Colombian Esteban Chaves suffered a mechanical when his chain blocked up in the closing kilometres.

Damien Howson:
“That was horrendous! A very, very hard day out in the breakaway, no cohesion, just constant attacking for 150-kilometres. I think if we’d have worked together a little bit better, we’d probably have had a chance for a stage win.”

“But not to be, the GC guys obviously had their day. Esteban had a bit of an issue with his bike on the final climb, so luckily I was there to help limit his loses.”

Julian Dean (Sports Director):
"It was a little bit weird today, a break got away with Tsgabu and Damo both in there, it was a good move for them. Damo went on with it and was able to stay away onto the last climb, but they were coming pretty fast from behind."

"Mikel lost a little bit of time and those sorts of climbs, it was super, super steep in the last six-kilometres, don’t really suit his forte. But there’s some good stages coming up for him."

"Unfortunately, Esteban had a mechanical and we had no way to get to him, it would have taken us four or five minutes to get to him with the narrow roads and the crowd. But to his credit, it must have been heart breaking, but he got back going and gave it everything he could all the way to the finish."

La Vuelta – Stage 13 Results:
1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) 4:28:26
2. Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) ST
18. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +2:18

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 13:
1. Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) 49:20:28
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) +2:25
3. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) +3:01
12. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +11:30

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.