Not feeling threatened on the final climb by his rivals Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) or Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Roglic allowed his mountain domestique Sepp Kuss to go for the stage win whilst handling his GC rivals himself.
It was Jumbo-Visma’s most impressive display of team strength in the mountains to date. The Dutch team kept up a steady pace over the days' three category 1 ascents, a breakaway up the road.
Then on the final climb up Acebo, Valverde’s attack shattered what remained of the bunch, but Roglic’s red jersey was shadowing the Movistar rider up the climb.
The two then collaborated to distance their rivals, crossing the line in eighth and ninth place respectively, shoring up their first and second place overall in the process.
At 2:25 back on GC after Acebo, Valverde is now Roglic’s only rival under three minutes behind. Slovenia's Pogacar is still in third, but slid to 3:42 back. It’s not quite game, set and match to Roglic on the GC battle, then, given Valverde’s relative proximity time-wise, but almost.
Roglic confirmed to reporters that he was pleased with teammate Kuss’ victory. In his main press conference, the traditionally taciturn Slovenian took a grand total of less than 100 words to analyse a day where his chances of winning the Vuelta have taken another quantum leap forward.
When asked if Valverde was his most dangerous opponent, Roglic argued “for sure he’s the closest one, there are really hard days to come and the whole team have to remain focussed.”
He did perceive Valverde as a threat, Roglic recognised. “As I’ve said before, he’s second overall. When he attacks, it’s nice if I can follow, so I did. It was a hard climb, all the way up.”
Roglic then sidestepped when asked whether it was normal for the top two riders on GC to collaborate in the way he and Valverde had done on the last climb.
“We’re cyclists and we want to race," Roglic said. "We respect each other. We tried to go as fast as possible to the summit.”
Roglic still has a hefty chunk of the Vuelta a España to get through. There are three important mountain stages, the first on Monday, when there is a threat of bad weather as well. Then two more are to come in the Sierras west of the capital at the end of the third week.
But after a day when Jumbo-Visma dominated one of the Vuelta’s hardest climbing stages from start to finish, Roglic is looking more firmly on course for his first Grand Tour victory.
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