Under-the-weather Ayuso turns in solid time trial but slides to sixth at Vuelta a España

Juan Ayuso speaks to the press after stage 10 at the Vuelta a Espana
Juan Ayuso speaks to the press after stage 10 at the Vuelta a Espana (Image credit: Sprint Cycling Agency)

After far exceeding expectations in the first week of the Vuelta a España, for the second time this year and on the eve of the race’s crunch time trial, ultra-young GC contender Juan Ayuso found himself fighting fires again.

The 19-year-old rider revealed after the stage 10 time trial that he feared he had gone down with COVID-19, the cause of multiple abandons among other teams since the Vuelta began, after he endured a rough night and only multiple testing proved he was wrong.

But while Ayuso’s time loss of 2:17 to stage winner Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl) in the time trial was anything but poor for a rider so young, the UAE Team Emirates rider was anything but happy after the stage, saying that at best he had “saved the day.”

“It’s a lot of time,” Ayuso, who dropped to sixth overall, at 4:53, said repeatedly.

“I woke up feeling rough, with a very bad headache, did three COVID tests, but it proved to be nothing,” he told reporters.

“Overall, that’s a lot of time to lose, but for now I just have to concentrate on recovering as best I can.”

Ayuso can take encouragement from how he reacted when he already had his previous very difficult day in the Vuelta a España, exactly a week ago on stage 4. 

That day he struggled after the transfer in the sudden rise in heat on a third category climb, but then recovered very well in the summit finishes that followed later on in northern Spain.

However, Ayuso was seemingly convinced, at least initially after the stage, that his hopes of a high GC finish had been considerably lessened by the time loss on Tuesday’s time trial.

“I’ll keep on fighting and I’ve saved the day given the circumstances,” said Ayuso, whose teammate João Almeida remains in seventh overall. “But I will have to fight very hard if I want to finish on the podium.”

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