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A strong headwind on the grinding climb to Pico Villuercas and another day of searing sun left the GC contenders to sit and simmer as the breakaway battled for the stage.
It wasn’t until the final kilometers that the main favorites came to the fore. Miguel Ángel López darted out of the bunch to take a slim advantage over his closest rivals on GC only to see Primož Roglič launch a chase in the final 500 meters that left him with just a four-second gain from the move.
Odd Christian Eiking retained his red jersey for one more day, but it may not be so easy Sunday as another mountain stage looms ahead of Monday’s rest day.
Miguel Ángel López (Movistar): 16th on stage, 4th on GC
Miguel Ángel López made a late attack out of the GC group on the climb to the finish line Saturday. López’s advantage over the bunch was kept under control by Jumbo-Visma before Primož Roglič pushed hard in the final 500 meters to minimize the Colombian’s lead, leaving him to gain just four seconds at the finish line.
López’s move came to naught Saturday but underlined the attacking threat that Movistar poses to Roglič. Enric Mas and López remain within 90-second of the defending champ and there’s still a lot of uphill to go where they could cause an upset.
“It was just a few seconds, but the sensations of how I felt are what I take away from today. At a certain point it was 20 seconds, but there was a lot of headwind, and in the final part, it was hard to open up a gap alone. Things went well, and tomorrow we have more mountains tomorrow.
“I don’t know if we rode conservatively today, but everyone is starting to feel tired. There have been some days, including the past few days, when the first part of the stages have been full-gas. Sometimes the breaks aren’t going until 70, 80 or even 100km. And all the heat just compounds the fatigue, even though the weather conditions are same for everyone. We’re happy that tomorrow is another hard day, and we have some beautiful stages still to come.”
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers): 19th on stage, 7th on GC
Egan Bernal showed better legs after losing handfuls of time in earlier summit finishes.
Bernal marked the wheels when the GC favorites accelerated in the chase for Miguel Ángel López, finishing in the group with Primož Roglič and his closest rivals Enric Mas and Jack Haig. Bernal remains nearly three minutes behind Roglič and so the red jersey remains far from his grasp, but the Colombian hasn’t given up all hope ahead of a series of mountain stages in the final week.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) August 28, 2021
“I felt a little bit better today. It was a strange climb, it wasn’t that steep and there was some wind. I am happy because I could arrive with them. There was a strong block wind there, and everyone had fear of attacking from far, and then blowing up. The best thing was to stay calm and save the strength for the final part of the climb.
“I don’t have fear, I am just realistic. When you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Today I felt pretty good, and we’ll see tomorrow. It’s going to be a different kind of stage tomorrow, and then the upcoming stages are very hard, so let’s see. Today was my best day so far.”
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert): 30th on stage, GC leader
Odd Christian Eiking survived a wave of pressure on the final climb to hang on to his red jersey for a fifth day. The Norweigan withheld a surge from nearest rival Guillaume Martin and his Cofidis teammates in the summit finish before clinging to the back of the GC group to finish level on time with his French foe.
Eiking and Martin both lost 16 seconds to Primož Roglič after the Slovenian’s late surge. Eiking now leads the overall by 54 seconds over Martin and 1:36 on Roglič.
Finally a coupe of minutes to relax! 👌 pic.twitter.com/noCvCH97jT
— Intermarché-Circus-Wanty (@IntermarcheCW) August 28, 2021
“I hoped it wouldn’t be too hard in the final climb, and I gambled to try to stay on the wheel. Martin tried to attack, but I knew it was a lot of headwind. I gambled to stay on the wheel, and it worked out today. When we passed 3km to go, I had a really good feeling that it was going to work out.
“It [retaining the race leads] depends on how the race will be tomorrow. Suddenly, my legs feel quite good, so it could be possible to keep the jersey.”
Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious): 20th on stage, 6th on GC
Jack Haig marked Primož Roglič when the Slovenian accelerated in the final 500 meters to finish on the same time as the Slovenian defending champ and continue his breakout ride at this year’s Vuelta.
Haig is posed in sixth overall, less than two minutes behind Roglič and within 31 seconds of López and a podium spot … Not a bad effort for a rider who started the race as domestique for Mikel Landa.
❤️ Clasificación tras la etapa 14 | GC after stage 14 #LaVuelta21
📊 Top 10
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) August 28, 2021
“That was a hard little final 500m there in the end when Roglič ramped it up. The breakaway went easily at the start, and we had control in the bunch, and Jumbo took over. It wasn’t crazy hard, and the wind played a big role in the final 10km of the climb. We saw López take a few seconds, but there was so much wind I was happy to be on the wheels and save those big watts for later on.”