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Vuelta a España 2019 Stage 12 Highlights: Navarra Circuit – Bilbao | GCN Racing

Vuelta a España 2019 Stage 12 Highlights: Navarra Circuit – Bilbao | GCN Racing


Welcome back to highlights of the Vuelta a
Espana, right here on GCN Racing. Today, was stage 12. Yesterday, we had a surprise winner. Step forward Mikel Iturria, a rider from the
Basque Country, taking his first pro win in the Basque Country, on an Orbea bike. It was the dream scenario for all involved. There was no change on the GC – the main group
rolled in close to 20 minutes down, Primoz Roglic safely in there and conserving his
red jersey for a 2nd day. Today could well be another one for the breakaway. 171.4kms from the Circuito de Navarra motorracing
circuit to Bilbao on rolling terrain, with 4 3rd category climbs, three of which come
in the final quarter of the stage. The last one, the Alto de Arriaz, is a wall,
with gradients of up to 20% on it’s 2.4km ramps on very narrow roads. It took over 100kms of frantic racing and
attacking for a breakaway to eventually go today. There were a lot of fresh legs – a rest day,
followed by a time trial, followed by a day in which anybody that rode in the bunch wouldn’t
have had to push particularly hard. It’s a part of the sport that you don’t
always have the privilege of watching, but it went on for so long that we got to watch
it unfold once the television pictures started. By the time it did go properly, there were
only just over 60kms to go. It was started by Willie Smit, the South African
from Katusha Alpecin, he was eventually joined by 18 others, including the likes of Philippe
Gilbert, Nikias Arndt, John Degenkolb, Heinrich Haussler, Valerio Conti, Felix Grosschartner,
Tosh Van Der Sande and the best placed on GC, JJ Rojas of Movistar, over 50 minutes
down on GC. With no threat, Jumbo Visma could afford to
sit up and allow the gap to grow rapidly, but it wouldn’t be long before the bunch
had to start racing towards the final climbs of the day, three third categories that came
in quick succession. Here’s the breakaway on the first of those,
Degenkolb already in difficulty as the pace was pushed on the front by Marcarto of UAE
Team Emirates. The narrow roads and steep gradients were
a sign of things to come for the riders here in the BAsque Country, these are some of the
hardest roads in the world. Jumbo Visma started to up the pace behind,
primarily to keep their leader, Roglic, safe and sound. There’d be no need for him to attack today,
but he would need to keep an eye on his rivals. The downhills, too, can prove difficult. Here is Smit coming very close to getting
it wrong on a steep right hander, thankfully, he just about held it up. This is Jonathan Lastra on the attack, again
– you’ll remember he finished in 2nd place on yesteday’s stage, but that clearly hadn’t
taken too much out of him. He was trying to do to everyone else what
Iturria had done to him yesterday. Behind, Gilbert was already starting to test
his own legs, and those of the others within the group. A few kms later and Felix Grosschartner had
attacked and got himself a decent advantage, he would eventually by joined by Mitchelton
Scott’s Tsgabu Grmay, the duo 41 seconds ahead of the group behind, and starting to
look a very dangerous threat. The gap remained the same as they crested
the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto El Vivero. The bunch would cross that same point still
almost 4 minutes back. And so, all eyes were on the final climb of
the day, and by the time we got to it, some sterling work from Declercq of Deceuninck
and Marcato of UAE meant that the leading duo were all but caught. We had one last ditch effort from Grmay, but
it was soon day over for them both. Cue Philippe Gilbert. He might be 37, but he doesn’t appear to
have lost any of the sparkle from his legs. Check out this for an attack, out of the saddle
sprinting on some very steep gradients, the only rider able to go with him, Barcelo of
Euskadi Basque Country Murias. Albeit briefly, another siering acceleration
from the Belgian was enough to crack Barcelo. Gilbert reminding us all that there aren’t
many better than him on this sort of terrain. When Smit was caught by the GC group, it was
already down to around 20 riders. George Bennett the last rider riding in support
of Roglic. By the time Gilbert got to the top of the
final climb, he’d managed to extend his gap to 21 seconds, and with it almost entirely
downhill to the finish in Bilbao, the stage result looked all but certain. The main favourites behind, looking at each
other, none of them sure if they should attack or save it for tomorrow. Aranburu and Barcelo did a sterling job on
the descent though, slowly but surely creeping closer to Gilbert, second by second. With 6kms to go, it ticked down to 16 seconds,
3kms later and it was down to 12. This stage was far from over. Coming in towards the finish, they had him
in their sights, Gilbert nervously checking over his shoulder to check the gap, down to
just 5 seconds by this point. But whilst they had him in their sights, Gilbert
now had the finish line in sight, and this was not one that he was going to let slip
away. Another few powerful pedal strokes and another
glance over his shoulder, and the duo behind knew they were beaten, no longer chasing,
but fighting for 2nd place. Another lesson in racing from Gilbert, then,
that was pure class. In the final 100m, he had enough time to sit
up and take in the applause from the enthusiastic Basque crowd, taking his 6th stage win at
the Vuelta, and his 10th at a Grand Tour. And who’d bet against him taking another
rainbow jersey in Yorkshire in a few weeks time? Chapeau too, to Tim De Clerckq, who once again
rode his heart out for one of his teammates today. The GC riders all rolled in together just
over 3 minutes down. No change in
the GC: Tomorrow, we’ve got some even harder climbs. It’s a 166km route from Bilbao to Los Machucos,
home of the rampas inhumanas. There are a total of 7 categorised climbs,
but really it’s all about the last one – it might only be 6.8kms long, but it’s been
given especial status courtesy of it’s incredibly steep gradients, up to 25%. My prediction is Miguel Anhel Lopez.

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