Vuelta a España: Higuita wins stage 18

Report

Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) won stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, triumphing from the early break in Becerril de Sierra. The Colombian, riding his first Grand Tour, was the last man standing from the breakaway, holding off an elite chase group over the final climb and descent to the finish.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) took second place, 15 seconds later, sprinting from a group of four GC men to edge out Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) for six bonus seconds. Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) finished with the duo.

The big news of the day, however, was the movement in the best young rider competition, where López took the white jersey from Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and moved up to fourth overall. The Slovenian lost 59 seconds to López, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also lost a place to teammate Valverde.

López had attacked multiple times throughout the stage, first on the penultimate climb of the stage, the second ascent of the Puerto de la Morcuera and then, after he was caught, on the final climb of the Puerto de Cotos.

It was there, after repeated accelerations, that he got rid of Pogačar, eventually establishing the elite quartet that came to the finish together. Higuita, meanwhile, had been away since the first climb of the day. The 22-year-old stuck with the break until the top of the penultimate climb before he attacked the descent, almost 50km from the finish.

Despite the attacks behind, and starting his effort with a mere one-minute gap, Higuita held on to take his maiden victory for EF, saving what has been a disappointing, crash-affected Vuelta for the team.

“I had already seen that this stage was perfect for me,” said Higuita after the stage. “It’s a boost for me and the team, after all the bad luck and abandons we’ve had during this Vuelta.

“I knew I had a chance to win in the sprint, but also by going solo. I was the last one [from the break] because I had excellent legs. Despite the fact that I had been riding solo for a while, I didn’t stop on the final climb.“

The fans along the road – I really enjoyed that. They really drove me forward today.”

After stage 18, Roglič remains in red with an extended 2:50 lead over Valverde, while Quintana lies third at 3:31. New best young rider López is at 4:17, while Pogačar is in fifth at. 4:49. Roglič now enjoys a 48-point lead in that points classification, while Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale) extended his mountain classification lead to 32 points.

How it unfolded

After the ambush in the crosswinds of stage 17, there was further opportunity to provoke changes in the general classification on stage 18 from Colmenar Viejo to Becerril de la Sierra.

The stage covered much of the same terrain as stage 20 back in 2015, where Fabio Aru and his Astana team dropped race leader Tom Dumoulin to win the Vuelta.

With Nairo Quintana five minutes closer to Primož Roglič after the chaos of stage 17, the four first-category climbs of the Puerto de Navacerrada, Puerto de la Morcuera (twice) and the Puerto de Cotos, the pivotal stage would be the main chance to unseat the Slovenian.

Attacks flew early on, despite Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) taking control of the peloton in the early stages. Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) had a go, but it was Wout Poels (Team Ineos) who first managed to stay away, getting a gap at the base of the Navacerrada.

The Dutchman held onto a frail advantage, but clung on, and was joined on the descent down the Cotos by teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart, as well as KOM leader Bouchard, Sergio Higuita (EF Education First), Tobias Ludvigson (Groupama-FDJ) and the Dimension Data duo of Louis Meintjes and Ben King.

At the bottom of the descent, a chase group of Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Omar Fraile (Astana), Óscar Rodríguez (Euskadi-Murias), Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma) and Jonas Koch (CCC Team) made it across, with the peloton two minutes back.

Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida), who had been hanging between the break and peloton, made the catch on the first ascent of the Morcuera (up the north side), making it 13 men up front.

Bouchard took second and first over the first two climbs, adding 16 points to his KOM haul and extending his lead. Later on, down in the valley loop before the south side of the Morcuera, the break's advantage reached five minutes.

Koch and Meintjes pushed on alone at the base of the second ascent of the Morcuera (10.4km at 6.7 per cent), as five minutes further back, Trek-Segafredo and then Astana took it up on the front of the peloton, with the Kazakh team dramatically upping the pace.

The action kicked off midway up the climb with 60km to race, with Astana blowing the peloton apart. Miguel Ángel López put in the first attack among the GC men 3km from the top, leaving behind a group made up of Roglič, teammate Sepp Kuss, Pogačar, the Movistar trio of Valverde, Quintana and Marc Soler, Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Carl Frederik Hagen (Lotto Soudal).

Up front, the break split up too with Bouchard leading the attacking as they brought back the two leaders. The Frenchman duly took another ten points to consolidate his KOM lead. On the descent, Higuita went on the attack, gaining 45 seconds by the base of the Cotos.

Majka and Pogačar put in some testers near the top of the climb, as the GC group trailed 20 seconds down on López. Hagen, Soler and Quintana were the first to struggle as Kuss dropped away, though Powless dropped back from the break to assist Roglič.

With 40km to go, the GC group caught López, who had joined up with teammate Fraile and the remains of the break. That made it a 21-man group chasing a minute behind lone survivor Higuita as they started the Cotos (13.9km at 4.8 per cent).

Kuss and Powless controlled the group up the climb, dropping 1:30 down on Higuita and things remained fairly quiet until López accelerated again and again, 5km from the top. He ended up out front with Roglič and Valverde, as Majka, Quintana and Pogačar chased.

Majka made it up to the trio, but Pogačar couldn't get back and lay 30 seconds back at the summit, while Quintana dropped 15 seconds further behind. Meanwhile, Higuita held on to a 40-second lead on the plateau to start the descent.

The young Colombian defended his lead well, only shedding ten seconds by the time he reached the final 2km. Meanwhile, López had moved up a spot on the virtual GC, taking Pogačar's fourth spot and white jersey.

That was how it finished, with Higuita holding on to take his biggest ever victory, while Roglič outsprinted Valverde in the chase group. Quintana and Pogačar would finish a minute later, with both men losing a spot on the general classification heading into the Vuelta's final three stages.

Results

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 4:33:09
2Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:00:15
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
4Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
5Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:17
6Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 0:01:16
7Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data
8Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
9Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
10Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:03:47
11Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida
12Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma
13Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:16
14Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos
15Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:22
16Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:04:50
17James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep
18Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott
19Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
20Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
21Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
22Neilson Powless (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma
23Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
24Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos
25Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:05:12
26Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ 0:05:58
27Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team 0:10:39
28Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida 0:11:46
29Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
30Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis Solutions Credits 0:14:35
31Ben King (USA) Dimension Data
32Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
33Jorge Cubero Galvez (Spa) Burgos-BH
34Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb
35Rob Power (Aus) Team Sunweb
36Ben O'Connor (Aus) Dimension Data
37Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott
38Hector Saez Benito (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
39Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team
40Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal
41Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
42Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
43Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
44Clément Chevrier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
45Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin
46Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin
47François Bidard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
48Sebastian Henao (Col) Team Ineos
49Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates
50Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
51Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team
52Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:18:24
53Darwin Atapuma (Col) Cofidis Solutions Credits
54Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo
55Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team
56Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis Solutions Credits
57Diego Rubio Hernandez (Spa) Burgos-BH
58José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
59Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo
60Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
61Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
62Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
63Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team
64Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
65Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team Sunweb
66Damien Touze (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
67Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
68Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
69Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos-BH
70Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
71Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:18:32
72Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:21:32
73Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
74Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
75Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
76Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
77Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
78Aritz Bagues Kalparsoro (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
79Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
80Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
81Casper Pedersen (Den) Team Sunweb
82Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team
83Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
84Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
85Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
86Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
87Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain-Merida
88Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
89Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
90George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma
91Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
92Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal
93Owain Doull (GBr) Team Ineos
94Steve Morabito (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
95Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin
96Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
97Francisco Ventoso (Spa) CCC Team
98Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Ineos
99Eros Capecchi (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
100Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Mitchelton-Scott
101Tony Martin (Ger) Team Jumbo-Visma
102Jetse Bol (Ned) Burgos-BH 0:23:39
103Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
104Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team
105Sam Bewley (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
106Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First
107Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
108Will Barta (USA) CCC Team
109Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
110Logan Owen (USA) EF Education First
111Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Dimension Data
112Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
113Pawel Bernas (Pol) CCC Team
114David de la Cruz (Spa) Team Ineos
115Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal
116Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First
117Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First
118Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
119Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
120Alexander Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
121Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep
122Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Ineos
123Cyril Barthe (Fra) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
124Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
125Rasmus Fossum Tiller (Nor) Dimension Data
126Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
127Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
128Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data
129Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
130Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
131Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
132Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
133Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Burgos-BH 0:27:20
134Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
135John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
136Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe
137Jesus Ezquerra Muela (Spa) Burgos-BH
138Ricardo Augusto Afonso Vilela (Por) Burgos-BH
139Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:27:27
140Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo 0:27:35
141Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates 0:27:37
142Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Deceuninck-QuickStep
143Juan Sebastian Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates
144Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
145Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida
146Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck-QuickStep
147Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo
148Szymon Sajnok (Pol) CCC Team
149Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain-Merida
150Nuno Matos (Por) Burgos-BH
151Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
152Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
153Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Hansgrohe
154Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal
155Willem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Katusha-Alpecin
156Fernando Barcelo Aragon (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:28:55
DNFAmanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data
DNFVasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Ineos
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Sprint 1 - Rascafria km. 135.5
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 4
2Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 2
3Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida 1
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Sprint 2 - Becerril De La Sierra km. 178.2
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 25
2Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 20
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 16
4Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 14
5Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 12
6Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 10
7Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data 9
8Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 8
9Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 7
10Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 6
11Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida 5
12Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma 4
13Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 3
14Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos 2
15Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team 1
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Mountain 1 - Puerto De Navacerrada km. 40.3
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos 10
2Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 6
3Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team 4
4Darwin Atapuma (Col) Cofidis Solutions Credits 2
5Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1
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Mountain 2 - Puerto De La Morcuera km. 78.2
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 10
2Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos 6
3Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos 4
4Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team 2
5Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team 1
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Mountain 3 - Puerto De La Morcuera km. 120.8
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 10
2Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 6
3Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data 4
4Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 2
5Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida 1
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Mountain 4 - Puerto De Cotos km. 151.9
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 10
2Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 6
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 4
4Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 2
5Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 1
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Young riders
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education First 4:33:09
2Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:17
3Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:16
4Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:03:47
5Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma
6Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos 0:04:16
7James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:04:50
8Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
9Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
10Neilson Powless (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma
11Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:05:12
12Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:14:35
13Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb
14Rob Power (Aus) Team Sunweb
15Ben O'Connor (Aus) Dimension Data
16Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
17Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin
18Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:18:24
19Damien Touze (Fra) Cofidis Solutions Credits
20Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos-BH
21Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:18:32
22Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:21:32
23