Primož Roglič’s (Jumbo-Visma) lead in the Vuelta a España was overturned on another dramatic day on stage 6 after the Slovenian and his team made a "collective mistake" on the penultimate climb of the Alto de Cotefablo.
With driving rain and the prospect of a cold, wet descent before the final climb to Formigal, the race leader eased up on the category 2 Cotefablo after having problems putting on his rain jacket. At the front of the peloton his rivals took advantage and accelerated, and although Roglič was paced back to the peloton at the foot of the climb, the effort decimated the Jumbo-Visma team. When new race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) attacked with just a few kilometres to go Roglič was forced on the defensive.
The Tour de France runner-up, who came into the stage with a five-second lead over Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) would eventually fall to fourth overall after conceding 43 seconds to Carapaz. The Ineos leader wasn’t the only rider to benefit from Roglič’s ride with Dan Martin and Carthy, both putting time into the Jumbo-Visma rider and leapfrogging him in the overall standings.
“Today it didn’t go as we had hoped,” Roglič said after the stage.
“In the descent of the penultimate climb I had problems with my clothes, so we were a bit too far back when the peloton broke. We had to pull out all the stops to get back. Eventually we managed to do that, but on the final climb I had not much left in my legs to counter the attacks. We have given everything.
"Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some. Today we lost some. The Vuelta is not over yet and we will continue to fight until Madrid”, a combative Roglič added.
Sports Director Grischa Niermann gave a more blunt explanation as to what happened on the road. He blamed the entire team at the race for making a mistake at the wrong moment, and when the red jersey group started the final climb their chase efforts meant that Roglič only had George Bennett for assistance.
“This was a big mistake from us and should not have happened,” Niermann said.
“As a team we were able to solve the situation, but we couldn’t do more than that. That’s a pity. Today was a bad day. The race is far from over. There are plenty of opportunities to come still and we will of course keep fighting to the end.”
Niermann picked up on Ineos Grenadiers’ accelerations at the front of the race but it was also Movistar who took up the pace on the final climb. The director blamed neither for unsporting behaviour, instead choosing to pick up his own squad’s errors.
“Primož had to take a rain jacket at the top of the climb but he couldn’t put it on, and he couldn’t close it. It was very cold. When he did he was too far back in the bunch and Ineos attacked on the descent and the bunch split. He was dropped.
"It was a big pity and a collective mistake from us. At that point, you can’t drop back but it happened and it took a big effort to bring him back. In the end, we lost some time and it was a bad day. Attacks like that can happen and we should be aware of that and we know that Ineos will take every opportunity to attack. That’s our fault."
Despite the blow, Roglič is still within 30 seconds of the overall lead now held by Carapaz, and with the majority of the stage favoring the GC, and the time trial still to come, the Slovenian is far from out of this. However, the defending champion cannot afford to make many more mistakes.
“The Vuelta is still wide open,” Niermann said.
“We’d rather be five seconds in front than 30 seconds behind but with the time trial coming we are still in a good spot.”
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