Thomas De Gendt won Stage 19 of La Vuelta. He proved to be the fastest in a sprint contested by the last eight riders left from the day’s large breakaway. De Gendt claimed Lotto Soudal’s fourth stage win in this year’s La Vuelta and consequently completed the trilogy: the 30-year old has won stages in the Giro, the Tour and now the Vuelta.
Today’s stage, between Caso. Parque Natural de Redes and Gijon, was maybe the last opportunity for the breakaway in this year’s edition. One first category and three third category climbs featured the day’s profile, but there was no uphill finish. A large group of nineteen riders, including Thomas De Gendt, broke away right after the start, and they were later joined by seven other riders. The front group was able to build a really big advantage, which at some point reached over seventeen minutes. De Gendt accelerated on the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos and came first at the top of the climb. The breakaway was consequently reduced to twenty-one riders. Garcia attacked twenty-nine kilometres from the finish and opened a one minute gap on his fellow escapees. He was joined by Bardet with fifteen kilometres to go, when the Frenchman left the chasing group behind on the Alto de San Martin de Huerces. However, the duo quickly saw the return of Costa and Roche. The four riders didn’t manage to stay away and De Gendt and four other chasers also came along in the finale. No one could go clear in the last four kilometres and the stage ultimately finished in a sprint. Thomas De Gendt perfectly timed his effort to claim his first ever stage win in La Vuelta. De Gendt had made it a career-goal to win a stage in each Grand Tour and was happy to have done so in this year’s edition.
Thomas De Gendt: “I started on the first row this morning, because I knew the breakaway once again had a chance today. As expected, Trentin, leader in the points classification, and Villella, leader in the KOM classification, were also ready to go on the attack. A group of nineteen riders was formed, and it quickly grew to twenty-seven, with lots of good riders in it and I therefore thought that my chances to win the stage were not so high. With 60 kilometres to go, I was the first to try to make an early selection in the breakaway, as I was hoping to continue with a smaller group. I knew Bardet was too strong on the climbs, so I mainly focused on Jungels. In the finale we had to chase down Bardet, Garcia, Rui Costa and Roche, who had gone clear on the last steep climb, but we worked well together to close the gap. I know that I’m not slow in a sprint with a reduced number of riders, but I thought that I’d better ride the sprint of my life if I wanted to take the stage win. Garcia surprised me a little, but then he slowed down and I won by a comfortable margin.”
“After Tomasz Marczynski’s first win the pressure fell off the team’s shoulders, but we stayed focused. Since then, it’s been better and better. I had said before the Vuelta that the fulfilment of the “trilogy” was an objective for the rest of my career, but I didn’t think it would be done this year. I didn’t feel great in the first week, then a bit better in the second week and I’ve been feeling even better this week, but the course didn’t really suit me. My coach told me that I had to be patient and that I would finally have good legs. I surprised myself today, but I like such surprises!”