Vuelta a España 2019 Stage 15 Highlights: Santuario del Acebo Summit Finish | GCN Racing

Welcome to highlights of stage 15 of La Vuelta
a Espana, here on GCN Racing. Yesterday, we had a bunch sprint, of sorts. The finale was marred by a huge crash with
1km to go, but emerging unscathed was Irish Champion Sam Bennett, who took his 2nd stage
win of the race by quite some margin. Contrary to the graphics of yesterday, the
top 10, once the times had been recalculated, remained unchanged from the previous day. Today was the first of two brutal days in
the mountains. 154.4kms between Tineo and the Santuario del
Acebo, where we had a summit finish. There were 4 categorised climbs, all of them
1st category. The climb to the finish was 8kms long, with
double digit gradients almost all the way up. With the terrain so tough, it was inevitable
that the break of the day would be full of strong climbers. Marc Soler amongst them, and it was he who
took maximum points on the first climb of the day, ahead of Tao Geoghehan Hart. Also up there in the 17 man group were Ion
Izaguirre of Astana, Ben O’Connor of Dimension Data, Lawson Craddock of EF Education First,
Sepp Kuss of Jumbo Visma, and Quentin Jauregui of AG2R. Behind, it was Tony Martin of Jumbo Visma
who was taking responsibility for the bulk of the chasing, but with the best placed rider
well over 10 minutes down, and Kuss up front, they could afford to be reasonably relaxed. The break had seen a significant split on
the penultimate climb of the day, O’Connor and Dani Navarro here riding in pursuit of
Sergio Samitier of the Euskadi Basque Country Murias team, who’d attacked with 9kms to
the summit, their advantage over the rest was 1m25 as they came towards the top. Group 2 on the road was being lead by Vasil
Kiryienka – at this point it looked like Team Ineos would be missing out yet again. It was Samitier who took the maximum 10 points
there, ahead of Navarro and O’Connor, who took 6 and 4 respectively. Madrazo still holding onto the lead of that
competition by the skin of his teeth.>You couldn’t hold this man back, though,
Samitier was soon on the attack again, riding towards the final climb with a 22 seconds
advantage over everyone else. Cue, the robot himself, Vasil Kiryienka, who
set off in pursuit of the Spaniard with 6kms to the start of that final climb, nobody wanting,
or able, to go with him. 2.5kms later and he’d caught Samitier, sprinting
straight past him, although unable to distance him, at least for the time being. And in fact it would be Samitier who distanced
Kiryienka once the gradient began to bite, 17% on the lower slopes. The group of favourites hit that final climb
with some incredible speed, Astana and Movistar determined to do what they could to put Roglic
under pressure. Roglic, though, still had a man up front in
the form of Sepp Kuss. At this point, though, he was being given
the freedom to ride his own race, which he was doing very well – after just over 1km
of climbing, he’d caught and passed Kiryienka and was soon up to the back wheel of Samitier. Who he sailed straight past. It wasn’t long before we had our first big
attack behind, World Champion Alejandro Valverde the man to do it, but Roglic was very quick
to react. And in fact he was the only man able to, the
riders who sit in 1st and 2nd on GC were proving today, once again, that they are the strongest
in the race. Their advantage over the rest soon grew to
15 seconds, Jakob Fuglsang doing his best to limit the damage for his teammate Lopez,
Pogacar closely watching his closest rival in the best young riders classification. Quintana, though, was far from his best again
today. Here he is leading the next group of GC riders,
which also included Hagen, Higuita and Keldermann. Kuss, though, was a man on a mission. It’s not often he gets the freedom to ride
for himself, and he didn’t need a 2nd invitiation to take it, his lead over 30 seconds coming
into the final 2kms of the stage, which by this point, was his to lose. His closest challengers, Ruben Geurrero of
Katusha Alpecin and Geoghehan Hart, but as the kilometres ticked down, their chances
of winning were diminishing quickly. Soler had by this point dropped back to pace
his teammate Valverde, giving both he and Roglic a bit of respite, their gap now up
to more than 30s over the Lopez Pogacar group. What a race it’s been for this man, though. American Sepp Kuss has ridden his heart out
for Roglic, but today it was time for his own success – playing it up to the crowds,
and why not! There haven’t been many more deserved victors
this year, and I’m sure this is going to be the first of many. Well done Sepp. Guerrero would be the best of the rest, outsprinting
Geoghehan Hart for 2nd. There was no let up behind, either – Roglic
and Valverde sprinting towards the line, keen to maximise their gains over the others. And they would be significant, 40 seconds
to be exact over Lopez and Pogacar, who’d also remained locked together. That’s the 4th victory of this young mans
career, and his first outside America. Tomorrow, it’s the
last stage before the last rest day, and it’s yet another tough one. Slightly shorter than today at 144.4kms, and
with only three climbs instead of 4, but not really any less demanding. The first two ascents are first category,
and then the final climb to Alto de la Cubilla is an especial category. 18kms long with an average gradient of over
6%, and the long false flat before it makes it an even tougher test. My prediction for the win is Pierre Latour
from a breakaway. See you tomorrow.