James Knox, young British climber for Deceuninck Quick Step, has been rooming with Philippe Gilbert during this Vuelta. While Knox cuts his Grand Tour teeth the Belgian legend and Stage 12 winner is busy limbering up for the forthcoming World Championships in Yorkshire.
I like to imagine Gilbert, each evening, imparting wisdom to his young teammate; cracking open a couple of Trappist beers and passing on two decades worth of hard-earned race-craft. Knox, the Cumbrian, no doubt provides a ring of Cumberland sausage for nibbles.
Then it’s early nights all round, the veteran Belgian tucking in his young teammate and reading him a couple of chapters of Harry Potter before sleep.
As you may know there are a lot of mountains in Cumbria on which Knox has clearly honed his talent. There are also a lot of blunt, straight talking people on hand to keep a talented young cyclist rooted in reality.
It’s no surprise that Knox appears to be an entirely humble, down to earth lad.
I’m a bit out of my depth at the moment, he said during the opening stages of this Vuelta. I felt really terrible today to be honest, he confirmed towards the end of last week. Who knows, I might crack big time one of these days he suggested at the weekend.
Yet there he was today, in the breakaway, diesel-ing up the final mountain – the Alto de la Cubilla – and poised to gain big time on the main General Classification contenders.
Teammates Gilbert and Remy Cavagna chaperoned the young Brit onto the slopes of our summit finish where, in the company of countryman Tao Geoghegan-Hart, Cumbrian teeth were well and truly gritted. Jersey unzipped, flapping in the wind like a classic continental climber.
Bear in mind he’s started one previous Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, which he didn’t finish. This evening he sits eleventh overall having taken fourth on the stage.
He’ll play it down, of course. Just ignore him. It’s a Cumbrian thing.Embed from Getty Images
Geoghegan-Hart took second on the stage, following up his third place yesterday, and so the good news is that tomorrow he is due to win. The bad news is that tomorrow is a rest day.
HOW unlucky can you get!
Meanwhile, Jakob Fuglsang, playing the role of man-most-likely all day in the break, took the stage win. The classy Dane with the impressive palmares rode clear imperiously towards the summit.
Back down the road, five minutes or so, we had Roglic, Pogacar and Lopez locked together while Valverde hung in and minimised his losses, shedding around twenty-five seconds. Neither Roglic nor his team have shown so much as a chink of weakness in fifteen days of racing.
The prospect of a Slovenian Grand Tour winner looks highly likely. A Slovenian one-two looks entirely possible.
And a Cumbrian in the top ten?