Nieve moves himself to 10th overall after Howson spends the day in the break

Sat 14 Sep 2019

Australian Damien Howson spent most of today's penultimate stage of La Vuelta in the breakaway before supporting teammate Mikel Nieve in the final, as the Basque-rider rode to ninth place on the stage, which helped him move into 10th place overall.

Nieve fought all the way up the final climb to claw back some valuable seconds which proved to be enough to launch him into the top ten with just one stage remaining into Madrid tomorrow.

The tough stage 20 was eventually won by youngster Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), who made a brave attack and also moved himself up overall on to the final race podium, with Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) dropping down to fourth place.

Howson On The Offensive

The penultimate stage began with a group of 14riders jumping away just ahead of the first climb of the day, with Howson able to climb into the move for Mitchelton-SCOTT. The Australian remained at the front of the race as the group continued reduced in size, due to the pace and difficulty of the climbs.

As the race approached the 100kilometres to go mark, the peloton settled down and the breakaway established itself, with Howson left at the front with just four-other riders and their gap stabilised around the three-minute mark.

Changes Overall

As the finish line drew closer, the GC battle began with an attack from Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) out of the reduced bunch. The GC group were quick to react to the Colombian and then Podacar launched. The Slovenian quickly open up a gap Astana and Movistar Team failed to co-operate and the UAE rider headed over the top of the penultimate climb with a one-minute 30seconds advantage.

Howson was then swallowed up but tried to remain in the GC group until the final kilometres, assisting Nieve who went on to climb to ninth place on the stage and improve his overall placing.

Damien Howson

"It was an unusual first 10km, a bit of a headwind but I knew there was a serious climb coming up ahead and I think nobody wanted to put themselves too far into the red before the climb started.

"I saw an opportunity to ride across to a group that was going and I was feeling pretty good. I thought to myself even if they ride the first climb really hard then I have given myself a head start.

"We worked hard against the peloton, Astana kept up the tempo and we got down to 30seconds at one stage but put it back out to four-minutes after that. We knew we were going to get caught eventually but it was just a case of when.

"I was able to then ride for Mikel and support him as best I could and then protect him from the wind."

Mikel Nieve - 10th on GC

"Today was really hard again, we were trying a lot of time for the breakaway, maybe I spent to much energy there but in the final I came good again. I tried to do my best and finally it was good to finish the stage in the top ten.

"I didn't expect it after the second rest-day becasue we had hard days in Asturias and I didn't too good there but this final week I started feeling better and better and I am happy to finish in the top ten."

Julian Dean - Sport Director

"A top-ten was one of our objectives coming in here. It has been a tough three-weeks but the boys have battled on and Nieve is testiment to that.

"It was an epic day, it was the most outstanding day of the Vuelta, some great riding and Mikel was extraordinary until the last day and the team can't ask for anything more from him."

La Vuelta – Stage 20 Results:

1. Tajar Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 5:26:40
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) +1:32
3. Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:32
9. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:08

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 20:

1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 80:18:54
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) +2:33
3. Tajar Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +2:55
10. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +22:34

Photos courtesy of Getty Images