For a short while today we obsessed over how quickly each rider could dismount one bike, mount another, clip in, and ride away with a hefty shove from a track-suited team-lackey. In a niche area of the sport (time-trialling) the race organisers gave us an extra layer of niche.
Because today’s TT route, from Muros to Mirador de Ezaro, in the Galician north-west corner of Spain, comprised 31.9 pan flat kilometres followed by 1.8 super steep ones. It was a little beauty of a course.
The bike change for the final climb was a no-brainer – of course there was advantage to be had from swapping to a standard road bike – and Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby was on the lookout for trembly legs. Legs that would indicate excessive tiredness.
I half expected a tremble-o-meter to appear on screen.Embed from Getty Images
The last time we watched Primoz Roglic time-trial uphill, you may remember his entire world fell apart. If we were to get a repeat performance today then Richard Carapaz and Hugh Carthy would be on hand to rub it in.
Carapaz, no time-trial expert, an ace on the climbs, went well. Seventh overall on the day. Carthy, long of leg and rictus faced, nailed fourth. He was flying. But Roglic, in the stock-still aero-tuck of a man with access to a wind-tunnel and a lot of time on his hands, was imperious.
Fast on the flat, quick on the climb, he blitzed the course to win the stage and seize the leader’s Red Jersey. He was even spotted grinning at the summit. Which, for Roglic, is a niche area of behaviour; the expressing of visible emotion not being within his usual bag o’ tricks.Embed from Getty Images
With that, we have five stages to go. Roglic leads by thirty-nine seconds from Carapaz and a further eight from Carthy. Remarkably, Roglic has now won four of the thirteen stages in this race, which is quite the strike rate.
With only one genuine mountainous stage left (but also three typically tough hilly Vuelta days) he is the favourite. No doubt.
But you might have noticed it’s been a funny old year. I, for one, formally retired from the predictions industry way back at the Tour de France.
(Top Image: Petar Milošević, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)