Analysis: How the GC stars fared on the Vuelta a España’s Alto de l’Angliru ascent

Sunday's Vuelta a España stage atop the Alto de l'Angliru produced thrilling action, as Hugh Carthy took a career-defining win, Primož Roglič bent but didn't break, and Richard Carapaz stormed into red. Here's how the other GC stars fared:

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

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Sunday’s ascent of the Alto de l’Angliru at the end of the Vuelta a España’s 12th stage unfolded amid bizarre conditions.

The climb, renowned for its steep steep road, rainy weather, and party-like atmosphere, was totally devoid of fanfare. The race’s favorites battled along the punishing ramps with nobody to watch them, except the millions of fans following along on television.

As always, the steep climb produced a thrilling battle. Hugh Carthy took a career-defining victory and galvanized his run at the Vuelta’s final podium. Richard Carapaz punched back hard and grabbed the race’s red leader’s jersey back from Primož Roglič. Sepp Kuss again made his case whey he should be the highest-paid domestique in all of pro cycling. And Roglič bent but did not break on the huge climb. Even though he suffered, he kept himself in the fight for the overall.

Here’s how the big GC stars fared on the brutal ascent of the Alto de l’Angliru:

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)

Roglič bent but did not break on the Angliru. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The good news: Roglič suffered and was not as strong as his rivals, however he dug deep to bend but not break. The Slovenian was dropped by the other GC stars near the top of the climb, and he chugged away behind teammate Sepp Kuss to keep the time gap small. In the end, he ceded 26 seconds to Hugh Carthy and 10 seconds to Richard Carapaz. Sure, he lost the red jersey, but Roglič kept himself very much in the fight for the win. He’s now in second place overall, 10 seconds behind Carapaz.

The other good news here is that Roglič’s Jumbo-Visma squad again asserted itself as the strongest in the race. Carapaz, Enric Mas, and Dan Martin were all isolated, and only Hugh Carthy had a teammate in Mike Woods. Jumbo wrecked the group on the climb, and Sepp Kuss was strong enough to shepherd Roglič to the finish line.

The bad news: Is Roglič’s performance today indicative of a bad day, or is it a sign that the Slovenian is taking on water during this crucial final phase of the race? That’s the question that the other GC rivals must be asking themselves as the race heads into week three. Roglič wasn’t the strongest on the climb — in fact, he wasn’t the strongest Jumbo-Visma rider on the climb! While this Vuelta does give him a few more opportunities to grab the red jersey — most notably Tuesday’s ITT to Mirador de Ézaro — Roglič is now on the back foot. And the GC riders will undoubtedly try and test him in the tough road stages to come.

Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)

Carapaz took back red on the steep climb. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The good news: Carapaz dropped Roglič at the top of the Angliru and seized the red jersey and a 10-second gap on his top rival heading into the race’s second rest day. This is a huge accomplishment for the Ecuadorian, given how the stage played out for him and his Ineos Grenadiers squad. Carapaz was isolated for the entire Angliru climb, after Chris Froome dropped away at the base. He had to ride in the group as Jumbo-Visma pounded away with five domestiques.

There were moments on the climb when Carapaz rode at the back of the main field, and it looked like he was counting down the seconds until he popped. And he didn’t! After Enric Mas jumped out ahead, Carapaz paced himself off of Roglič, and when he sensed the Slovenian was slowing down, he bolted across the gap and began chugging away on the front. To be fair, it was his effort that really put Roglič into trouble.

The bad news: We should definitely look at Sunday’s stage through rose-colored glasses for Carapaz, as he is definitely now the favorite to win the race. Roglič is potentially slowing down at this crucial stage in the race, and Carapaz seems to be getting stronger. OK, now the hit of reality. Carapaz is a good TT rider, but he’s not on the same level as Roglič — under normal circumstances. So, if both riders are to recover well on Monday, then it’s likely that Roglič will take time and the jersey in Tuesday’s ITT. So, the battle plan for Carapaz is now to attack in the mountains and hope that Roglič has another bad day. That’s not an impossible game plan to execute, of course, however Carapaz must do it with a much weaker team than that of his rival.

Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling)

Carthy took a career-defining victory on the Angliru. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The good news: The stage victory atop Angliru is the biggest result of Hugh Carthy’s career, and it’s a day that will go down in history for Carthy, EF Pro Cycling, and British cycling in general. He’s the first British rider to win on this hulking mountain that has aleady hosted top names like Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, and others. His 2020 Vuelta a España is now a tremendous success, no matter what happens in the race’s final week.

Carthy’s victory came after a dramatic effort that saw him look comfortable, in trouble, downright bad, and then confident and strong. He rode down Enric Mas alongside Richard Carapaz, and then struck out for glory with 1.3km to go. It was a perfectly-timed move that combined strength, grit, and smarts.

Carthy’s win makes his shot at the final podium in Madrid a real goal for EF Pro Cycling. He jumped up one spot on the GC and now sits in third place overall, just 32 seconds behind Carapaz.

The bad news: The only bad news for Carthy was that there were no screaming Spanish fans on the roadside to immortalize his historic attack with countless blurry smartphone images.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Martin kept himself in the fight for the podium. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The good news: Martin rode an admirable race and finished 7th on the day just alongside Roglič. This is a huge result for Martin, considering he looked to be in trouble when Enric Mas attacked with 3.3km to go. Martin, like Roglič, bent but did not break. He made a huge effort in the final 2km to catch and pass Roglič and keep himself in the fight. While he did slip from 3rd to fourth on GC, that’s not a huge setback, considering the challenge of the day.

The bad news: Martin was leapfrogged by Carthy in the battle for the overall. Which rider will perform best in the coming TT? Martin is likely to be better, but it could be a toss-up.

Enric Mas (Team Movistar)

Was Enric Mas the strongest? Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The good news: Mas was perhaps the strongest rider on the hill today, and his attack with 3km to go started the action that ultimately decided the result. Perhaps the move was a kilometer or two too early, but hey, sometimes you just gotta go. He finished 3rd on the day, just 16 seconds behind Carthy, and solidified himself as a contender for the final podium. Mas held his 5th place and is 1:50 behind Carapaz.

The bad news: The knockout punch that Movistar and Mas were hoping to land at Angliru didn’t quite happen. While Mas attacked, and his move lit up the race, it didn’t gain him much in the overall. Now, time is running out for Mas and Movistar to grab the podium.

Marc Soler (Team Movistar)

Soler’s run at the overall is done. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The good news: Not a ton of good news for Soler today, who saw his GC run take a fatal hit just a day after he vaulted back into the picture. The good news is that Enric Mas is still up there for Team Movistar, and the bad news is that Soler is gone from the GC picture.

The bad news: Soler was dropped at the base of the Angliru and ceded 14:33, dropping 13 places on GC from 6th place overall to 19th. He’s now 17 minutes down. His fight for red is officially over.

Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott)

Nieve is gunning for the top-10 after being dropped. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The good news: Nieve fought hard on the mountain to preserve his 10th place on GC. Although he was dropped with 6.5km to go, he battled on, crossing the line in 11th place, 2:15 down.

The bad news: Mitchelton-Scott entered the race with two GC hopes in Nieve and Esteban Chaves. Now, Nieve is the team’s only hope for a top-10 finish in Madrid.

Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Großschartner was dropped but kept his top-10 placing alive. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The good news: Großschartner was dropped near the base of the climb but he fought hard to keep his losses small, ceding 2:15 by the summit. He kept his 7th place on GC, even if his gap went out to 5:30.

The bad news: Großschartner’s run at the podium is probably over, unless he throws a long-bomb and goes into a big daylong attack. Hey, a top-10 finish in a grand tour is a helluva result. But top-3 is going to be tough.

Wout Poels (Bahrain-McLaren)

Poels is quietly having a stellar Vuelta a España. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The good news: Wout Poels was one of the biggest winners on the day, even if he was dropped and didn’t feature in the fight for the win. Poels gained major time on GC and stepped up from 9th place to 6th place overall, 5:13 down. Sure, he’s not going to win the Vuelta or even land on the podium, but he’s right there for a top-5 finish, should any of the major players ahead of him totally implode.

This is a boon for Poels, who has never strung together a consistent grand tour ride as a GC leader. We’ve seen him smash the race to pieces as part of Team Sky’s hit squad, and I, for one, always wondered if he had it to ride for GC. This ride on the Angliru showed that he can. Will he ever win a grand tour? Eh, who knows. But he can ride, day in and day out, for GC.

The bad news: Poels was dropped with 5.5km to go. He finished 8th on the day, 1:35 down. Again, not a bad performance at all.

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