Hola and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 18 of the Vuelta a España.
It's time for the queen stage in the terrible Asturias mountains.
As the riders gather for the roll-out of Salas, it's time to prepare for another terrible mountain stage.
The riders are on the move for the neutralised ride out of Salas.
The riders face an 11.7km neutralised ride before the flag drops for the 162.6km stage.
He produced a dominate ride yesterday as he won the stage to Lagos de Covadonga and retook the race lead.
As Barry Ryan wrote in his stage report, Roglič’s superiority brooked no argument, though the dramatic nature of his victory owed much to the invention of Egan Bernal, who had launched the winning move with an ambitious offensive on the Collada Llomena with some 61km remaining.
Roglič was the only rider to follow Bernal’s seated acceleration and he collaborated with his rival in the valley over the other side to extend their lead over the chasers beyond two minutes at one point.
That gap began to come down ahead of the final ascent to Lagos de Covadonga, but Roglič’s showcase was only beginning. He took up the reins definitively with 12km to go, and his resolute forcing would eventually prove too much for Bernal, who allowed a gap to open with 7.6km to go.
Roglič punched the air with one fist as he crossed the finish line, while his teammate Sepp Kuss won the sprint for second place at 1:36, leading home a group containing Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar), Adam Yates (Ineos), Enric Mas (Movistar), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Bernal.
In the overall standings, Roglič is now 2:22 clear of Mas and 3:11 ahead of Lopez. Bernal, for all of his endeavour, gained just one place overall, moving up to 6th, albeit now 4:29 behind Roglič.
To read our full stage report and study the full results and enjoy our photo gallery, click below.
Vamos! The flag is waved the stage starts.
Five riders failed to finish yesterday and others did not start today.
They are Carlos Verona (Movistar) who is suffering with deep bruising, Dylan van Baarle (Ineos) who hurt his hip in a stage 12 crash.
Sander Armée (Qhubeka) has confirmed he did not finish yesterday
Armée wrote on social media:
"Game over La Vuelta. Bad crash yesterday when I hit a stone with my front wheel. Landed on my shoulder and broke the collarbone. Disappointed to not finish my 10th GT. Now focus on recovery and come back stronger. Thanks to Qhubeka NextHash for support, a true, warm family."
We have the first attacks of the day as riders try to get into the early break.
They are brave souls with so much climbing to come.
The Vuelta discovers a new monster climb today, with 162.6km of racing towards the summit finish at Altu d’El Gamoniteiru. It is atop a 14.6km climb with an average gradient of 9.8%.
The stage features 4,500m of elevation.
Four riders have a 15-second gap but the peloton is riding at speed.
The opening 30km are on gradually rising roads before the 9.9km Puertu de San Llaurienzu begins.
Here comes another group, as other riders try to get in the move of the day.
They are perhaps hoping Roglic and Jumbo-Visma will let a break go clear.
They could be right.
150km to go
We can see more surges and more chases from the Cyclingnews blimp.
It'll probably take a while for the break to form, perhaps only when the Puertu de San Llaurienzu begins.
Wow. We have 32 riders in the break.
The peloton has let them go.
Even Jumbo-Visma have a rider in there, in Koen Bouwman.
Most other teams have riders too, so who will chase behind?
Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) is there, as is another mountain stage winner Michael Storer (Team DSM).
The break's lead is up to 3:00.
There is no threats to the GC riders in the break, so the 32 could be allowed to open a big lead during the stage.
Majka is best placed but is 54:15 down on Roglic.
The 32 riders are lined out as some push the pace. As always, others are hiding in the wheels, trying to get a free ride.
This is the shake out of riders in the attack.
AG2R-Citroën: Cherel, Dewulf
Alpecin Fenix: De Tier, Planckaert
Astana-Premier Tech: G. Izagirre
Burgos-BH: Canal, Okamika, Sanchez
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA: Bagües
Cofidis: Jo. Herrada
EF Nippo: Keukeleire
Euskaltel-Euskadi: Martin, Mate
Groupama-FDJ: Le Gac
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux: Taaramäe
Ineos Grenadiers: Puccio
Israel Start-Up Nation: Piccoli
Lotto Soudal: Cras, Vanhoucke
Movistar Team: Erviti
Team BikeExchange: Howson, Schultz
Team DSM: Arensman, Storer
Team Qhubeka NextHash: Aru, Lindeman
Trek-Segafredo: Brambilla, Nibali
UAE Team Emirates: Majka
Bahrain Victorious are the only team not in the break and so are leading the peloton in pursuit.
The riders are deep in the Asturias valley, riding between the trees on fast roads.
However they will soon start the Puertu de San Llaurienzu climb.
It is 9.9km long and climbs at 8.6% in two steps.
This is the Puertu de San Llaurienzu.
130km to go
Bahrain refuse to let the elastic snap and the break go.
That has produced a fast start on the rising valley road.
The 32-rider breakaway is leading by 4:00 as the team classification could also come into play.
Bahrain lead it but only by 6:17 on Jumbo-Visma, so they can't let Bouwman gain easy time by sitting in the break.
The 32 are working through and off in the break, with teams with more than none rider in the move doing extra turns by their weaker climbers.
The Puertu de San Llaurienzu is close now.
These are the 32 adventurers.
🎥🏁 Km 36 | Etapa 18 - Stage 18 | #LaVuelta21🚴32 corredores en fuga fuga con @majkaformal, Izagirre, @mjstorer_au, Taaramäe, @FabioAru1...🚴32 riders in the head of the race with some important names!⌛️4 min👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K pic.twitter.com/bAeEvbTx0uSeptember 2, 2021
Here we go.
The Puertu de San Llaurienzu begins with a series of stunning hairpins.
The Puertu de San Llaurienzu is the first of four major climbs in the 162.6km stage.
In some ways the terrain is very similar to Wednesday, given the region of Asturias has a seemingly unending supply of treacherous, narrow and twisting descents, often liberally sprayed with rainwater. But the climbs the riders will find on Thursday on Asturias’ more westerly side are quite different to Wednesday’s rollercoaster climb of Covadonga in the region’s centre. By and large, Thursday’s climb is more regular, with fewer changes in gradient, and almost all of it relentlessly uphill and steep.
It’s a sign of just how many tough gradients stage 18 contains that it manages to pack 4,500 metres of vertical climbing into just 162 kilometres. The only other mountainous day in the Vuelta with as much vertical climbing, stage 9 to Velefique with 4,593 metres, was nearly 30 kilometres longer.
To fully understand what is come in the stage, click below to read Alasdair Fotheringham's full stage preview.
Alasdair is on the ground in Spain, was at the summit finish yesterday and knows the terrible Asturias mountains very well.
Two riders have already been dropped from the attack: Le Gac and Gamper.
Lindeman is struggling too.
115km to go
Bahrain continue to chase with Gino Mader doing a long turn on the front.
However the gap is up to 5:00.
James Piccolo (Israel Start-Up Nation) has edged clear of the break, perhaps to help him later when the steep gradients return or to shake out the break.
As the road rises, the cloud level nears. Fortunately the roads are dry so far.
Guillaume Martin is suffering at the back of the peloton. He could be distanced and so lose his fifth place overall.
110km to go
Bahrain are still leading the chase but have not pulled anything back on the break despite Mark Padun and Wout Poels doing the work with Gino Mader.
Piccolo is fighting on out front. The Canadian is one of only three Israel riders left in the Vuelta.
Piccolo leads the rest of the break by 15 seconds.
Everyone in the attack is spinning their legs on the climb.
As the top of the Puertu de San Llaurienzu climb, Piccoll is pulled back.
We're expecting a sprint for the KOM points.
Storer jumps early and so takes maximum points.
Majka was there too ands is close in the KOM classification. However he didn't really fight to take maximum points.
The break is on the fast descent of the Puertu de San Llaurienzu. They can enjoy a long valley road to the next climb.
Damiano Caruso and other riders grab a newspaper to stuff down their jersey to offer some protection against the cool air.
A newspaper is low-tech but works and easy to take and easy to dispose of.
Old school! 📰 Always makes in a good mood when you see lost habits from the good old days. #LaVuelta21 pic.twitter.com/BExzfuPPRNSeptember 2, 2021
Bahrain have five riders on the front as they chase the attack and split the peloton.
They've reduced the gap to 4:30 but face a long day of suffering.
For what? Maybe to set-up Haig for a jump in GC? Perhaps to go for the stage victory? But how come they missed the break of the day?
:ots of questions, with few answers.
The Roglic GC group is 40 seconds ahead of the split.
Has someone been caught out behind?
The two GC groups are coming back together on the flat valley road. The split showed the speed of the descent and the importance of position.
The peloton is lined out and still riding at speed. There has been little respite so far despite riders being tired after 17 intense days of racing.
up ahead, the break starts the next climb, the Altu de la Cobertoria.
It is 7.9km long at 8.6% and so a real test.
It will surely split up the break and peloton.
The 30 riders in the attack are grabbing musettes and food.
They are losing time, with the peloton now at 3:50 under Bahrain's chase.
80km to go
This is the next climb.
The climb starts but Jens Keukeleire beats fellow Belgian Stan de Wolf to take the intermediate sprint. It seemed to be a personal sprint-off and a bit of fun to break up the fatigue of the day.
As the climb begins to hurt, Thymen Arensman ups the pace for DSM teammate Michael Storer.
The tactics to win stage have begun in earnest.
Wisely Rafa Majka and others come across to the move.
The peloton is at 3:20 as Bahrain pull them along.
It will be fascinating to understand their tactics later.
There are 3.5km left to climb with 22 riders still up front.
Arensman is going deep to try to make Storer's rivals hurt.
Fabio Aru was distaced but has fought his way back.
The Italian is looking for one final performance before he ends his career at the Vuelta.
It is tempting to suggest that Aru felt liberated by his imminent retirement, though he politely dismisses the idea. Even so, the smiling, relaxed figure at this Vuelta contrasts heavily with the withdrawn young man of yesteryear, who sometimes gave the gloomy impression that he had been somehow doomed to a life of contending for Grand Tours.
Click below to read Barry Ryan's recent exclusive interview with Aru.
70km to go
The peloton has lost some of its recent gains, with the break now 4:00 ahead.
Storer pushes on alone to chase the KOM points.
Will he push on alone and go for the stage win? There's still 70km to race, so perhaps not.
Storer is closing in on the KOM lead of teammate Romain Bardet.
Storer reaches the top of the Altu de la Cobertoria to score 10 more points. That gives him a total of 54 and so the lead in the blue polka-dot jersey.
The best of the rest of the break is 30 seconds down.
The peloton is at 5:00.
Storer is not waiting for the chasers and diving through the mist on the descent.
Storer pushes on, making the chasers work hard to go after him.
This is a big effort by the Australia but also a big ask with so long to race and then the Altu la Segá o del Cordal climb and then the terrible final climb up to Altu d’El Gamoniteiru.
Storer has gained good time on his rivals.
Two riders are in the middle, with the best of the break at 1:50. That's a good advantage to have.
Into the final 50km for Storer, who has 2:02 on the chasers and 5:17 on the red jersey group.
This has been a brave move from Storer, who still has 15km or so of valley road before he hits the base of the penultimate climb, the Cordal.
Movistar and Bahrain Victorious are setting the tempo in the red jersey group, which has closed to within 4:30 of Storer.
Michael Storer (DSM)
Chasers at 2:00
Red jersey group at 4:17
The pace is rising considerably in the red jersey group, with Movistar stretching out things out in the company of Bahrain Victorious.
Storer is maintaining his buffer of 2 minutes over the chasers, but the red jersey group is drawing closer thanks to Movistar's forcing. 3:45 the gap.
35km to go
The peloton is closing in on the remains of the break.
Movistar are driving the group along in pursuit of a stage victory and a podium place.
Movistar and Bahrain are leading the peloton on the valley road, saving their climbers for later.
up front, Storer is about to start the Cat 2 Altu la Segá o del Cordal climb.
It is 12.2km long at an average of 3.8%. That should help the chasers hunt down Storer.
There are a lot of serious faces in the peloton. This pace is hurting everyone.
And this is all before the big final climb of Altu d’El Gamoniteiru.
As the steeper parts of the Altu la Segá o del Cordal kick-in, the peloton is about to seep up the rest of the attack.
Aru tries one last attack but only Storer is out front.
The Australian is a talent and on superb form here but is now unlikely to stay away on the final climb.
Will we see him make another attack today?
Click below to read his thought after yesterday's stage.
25km to go
Storer fights on and defends his 2:00 lead but UAE are leading the peloton as the big teams prepare for the showdown on the final climb.
Rafal Majka is leading the line for UAE after being in the break all day. He didn't have the legs to go for the stage victory today.
Behind Storer teammate Romain Bardet has attacked, to also score KOM points.
Storer reaches the peak of the climb and begins the technical descent.
He scores more KOM points.
Bardet is with Mikel Bizkarra of Euskaltel and kicks to be second over the summit of the Altu la Segá o del Cordal.
The peloton is also over the top of the climb and begin the twisting descent.
Position is vital because after the descent, the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru begins.
This is the steep, steep profile of the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru.
13km to go
Storer has held his 2:00 lead as they start the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru.
But how can he hold off the GC riders when they attack?
Bahrain lead the peloton onto the climb to set-up Jack Haig.
The Australia is hoping to move closer to the podium places behind Roglic.
Bardet is caught as Movistar help Bahrain set the pace.
The Altu d’El Gamoniteiru is 14.6km long at 9.8%
Yes, 14.6km at an average of 9.8%!!
Both the Gamoniteiru and the Angliru ascents are roads to nowhere, as in they are former tracks for cow herders to reach high pastures and do not lead up to any villages or even a ski station. Where the tarmac ends then, so does the climb.
However, “The Gamoniteiru is nothing like the Angliru,” Navarro told the Spanish newspaper AS earlier this year.
“I’ve known this climb for years, and it’s so hard because there are no breaks in the gradient. The only slightly easier section is after coming off the Cobertorio and before moving onto the second half of Gamoniteiru when there’s a bit of false flat. But then it gets really hard, non-stop climbing, again.”
#LaVuelta21C'est parti pour l'Altu d'el Gamoniteiru ! 🏁 14km📸 @GettySport pic.twitter.com/7cJs9sz0LWSeptember 2, 2021
It will take about 50 minutes to climb to the finish.
Lets hope the riders have got low gears for the long haul.
11km to go
Storer rides on and still leads by 2:00.
We can see leader Primoz Roglic in the peloton.
He faces a big day today after going on the attack on Wednesday.
Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) pushes on and is joined by David de la Cruz (UAE).
They are surely trying to gain an advantage before the final shake out.
This is the quiet before the storm, as all the riders treat the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru with respect.
Bouchard is about to be caught but Storer is still 1:50 clear.
De la Cruz pushes on alone and is 1:10 down on Storer. Both seem bait for the bigger sharks of the peloton to chase.
Not much was expected of De la Cruz's surge but he's closing on Storer and the peloton has not reacted and are at 1:00.
7km to go
Storer reaches the plateau section and eases up, takes a bidon and lets de la Cruz catch him.
We have a new two-rider race up front.
The peloton is at 50 seconds but there are only 11 riders in it.
Roglic is letting Intermarche set the pace for Meintjes.
All the top 5 GC riders are there, some with teammates.
De la Cruz has distanced Storer.
5km to go
Bernal attacks and Roglic responds!
Lopez and Mas are there, so is Kuss.
Adam Yates can't hold the pace as Bernal goes again.
Bernal is riding to move up the GC.
His surges are hurting as the gradient touches 11%.
Fortunately the mist means the riders can't see the mountains around them or the road ahead.
The road is narrow, it's just a asphalted animal track used by farmers to move their animals to higher pastures.
Lopez attacks alone to surge across to De la Cruz.
Kuss is leading the line for Roglic, that dissuades attacks.
However Haig and Meintjes are back with them.
2.5km to go
Lopez catches De La Cruz as he goes for the stage victory.
Lopez pushes on alone as the steepest gradients bite hard.
Roglic seems happy to let him go because Lopez is third overall at 3:11.
We speak too soon. Roglic ups the pace to hurt all his rivals.
Only Mas and Bernal can hang onto his wheel as the close in on De la Cruz.
Boom! Bernal attacks but Roglic responds.
1km to go
Lopez seems to have done enough to win the stage.
But Bernal keeps going in the hope of catching him. Roglic is there and in control. Mas too.
Lopez dances on the pedals but he's suffering on the 15% gradient.
Lopez pushes through mist to win alone!
Roglic accelerates behind to take second place and more bonus seconds.
Every rider fought for every second on the terrible steep finish.
Lopez punches the air as he crosses the line.
This is the top ten for the stage:
1 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team 04:41:21
2 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 00:00:14
3 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:20
4 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 00:00:22
5 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:00:58
6 David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates
7 Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 00:01:06
10 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:01:07
This is the general classification after stage 18:
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 73:24:25
2 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:02:30
3 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team 00:02:53
4 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:04:36
5 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:43
6 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:05:44
7 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 00:06:02
8 Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious 00:07:48
9 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:08:31
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 00:09:02
What a stage? What a finish.
Nothing much changed overall but Lopez won it well with a perfectly-timed late attack.
Roglic decided not to risk going after him but instead controlled Bernal's attack and kept an eye on Mas.
Here's Lopez on the attack.
Lopez's attack lifted him to 2:53 down on Roglic, with Movistar teammate Mas at 2:30.
Will they fight for second place in the final stages and the last day time trial?
Mas perhaps has an advantage considering Lopez's TT skills.
To understand what it was like out there, watch the final kilometre.
🎥Etapa 18 - Stage 18 | #LaVuelta21🇪🇸 Vive el último kilómetro de la victoria de @SupermanlopezN en el Altu d'El Gamoniteiru gracias a @CarrefourES🇬🇧 Live the last km. of Miguel Ángel López's victory thanks to @CarrefourES#CarrefourConLaVuelta pic.twitter.com/Q4oZTLGE6ISeptember 2, 2021
Here's Roglic before the pain of the final climb.
Michael Storer was unable to stay away and win the stage but he scored enough points to take the KOM jersey from teammate Romain Bardet.
The Australian now has 59 points, probably enough to win the blue polka-dot jersey.
For our full stage report, growing photo gallery and full results, click below.
Primož Roglič admitted he suffered today after being on the attack yesterday with Bernal.
"It felt like the Queen stage. It was a super hard day, especially after yesterday’s effort. It was hard for me. But I’m happy that something was left and that I could climb this mountain," he said after pulling on the leader's red jersey.
"We were off duty (because Movistar and Bahrain Victorious lead the peloton). We could go easier but it was a hard pace. It was a hard day from start to finish."
With the high mountains done, Roglic admitted he was a step close to overall victory.
"It’s nice the mountains are behind us. I think we’re all feeling the efforts of the last few days and the three weeks before," he said.
"I think there are some super hard stages to come and hopefully we can do our best and finish it off."
Fabio Jakobsen and Deceuninck-QuickStep were also happy to have made the time cut and so defended the green points jersey.
Mission accomplished!@FabioJakobsen beats the time cut thanks to a fantastic collective effort and remains in #LaVuelta21 green jersey! pic.twitter.com/xcHzKRkMT7September 2, 2021
Thanks for joining us for full live coverage from the Queen stage of the Vuelta.
We'll be back on Friday for full live coverage of stage 19 from Tapia to Monforte de Lemos.
It should be a day for a aggressive breakaway.
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