Second Stage win at 2019 Vuelta for Gilbert

Stage 17 of the Vuelta and crosswinds and a sensational Deceuninck – Quick-Step team effort carries James Knox into the top 10 overall, with just four stages remaining and a stage win for Philippe Gilbert

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Second Stage win at 2019 Vuelta for Gilbert

A massive show of strength, endless amount of guts and an immeasurable performance from the entire Deceuninck – Quick-Step team contributed to a gripping Vuelta a España stage 17, which not only will easily go down as one of the best in the history of Grand Tours, but also netted a string of accolades for the Wolfpack, including a 60th UCI victory of the season.

Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield/ Getty Images

On paper, it should have been a relatively quiet day, over a slightly undulating terrain, from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara, where the race returned for just the sixth time in history. But the Wolfpack had other plans and as soon as the bunch exited the neutral zone, they asserted their authority over the race, ripping the peloton through the crosswinds and forcing what proved to be a crucial selection.

Eros Capecchi, Rémi Cavagna, Tim Declercq, Philippe Gilbert, Fabio Jakobsen, James Knox, and Zdenek Stybar all booked a place in the 46-man group and brought out the heavy artillery, showing again why our squad are the peloton’s crosswinds experts. From kilometer three until the finish of the longest stage of this year’s Vuelta (219.6km), Deceuninck – Quick-Step relentlessly drove a burning pace, putting over six minutes between the leading group and a depleted field on this fast, dramatic stage, and turning the race upside down.

A sudden injection of pace with 40 kilometers remaining helped the chasers cut the deficit by more than a minute, giving a glimmer of hope to the bunch, but it was just a brief moment which immediately cooled down, as the Deceuninck – Quick-Step-powered group continued to ride unabated, causing more havoc and averaging more than 50km/h as they pushed the lead out to 5:30.

Inside three kilometers to go, Zdenek Stybar threw in an effort as the road went up and carved out a small advantage, but he was pulled back with 500 meters to go. Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) was the first to open the sprint, but Philippe Gilbert remained attentive and tracked down the attack, catching and surging past the Irishman when he ran out of steam on the stiff gradient to the line, thus adding an 11th Grand Tour stage win to his tremendous palmares.

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“The stage was complicated and very aggressive right from the start with the wind and everything, but we were very motivated and had a plan, so we hit the front early and did our thing. It was just crazy out there and I can tell you I have never experienced anything like this in 17 seasons as a pro. I am sure this stage will forever remain in the history of La Vuelta and people will talk about it for many years from now on. All this makes my win, which was possible only with the help of a fantastic and committed Wolfpack, even more sweet and unforgettable”, Philippe Gilbert said after his 77th pro victory, which landed him the prestigious Ruban Jaune, awarded to a rider after recording the fastest average speed (50.63km/h in this case) in a race longer than 200 kilometers.

On an astonishing day for the team, packed with great racing and a whirlwind of emotions, which brought four Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders in the top 10 in Guadalajara, including a solid third for Rémi Cavagna, James Knox’s leap into eighth on the general classification ended up being the cherry on the top.

James Knox: “We knew it was windy, we knew it was exposed, and we went full gas as soon as we had the opportunity. When we found ourselves at the front, we knew we were going to give everything and really believed we would go all the way to the line. We rode for the overall standings, but also to protect Phil. What we did today is pretty unreal and I’m not sure I’ll ever top this”, said the 23-year-old Brit, who couldn’t contain his delight after having been one of the day’s main beneficiaries.

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Other Reactions
Roglic conceded that he had made a mistake at the start of the race. “It was a very hard stage. I have made a mistake which I really have to learn from. I wasn’t in the place that I should have been. The team made a big effort and helped me out. However, I never panicked. Luckily were are still in a very good position. We lost today’s battle but of course not the war. I think there will be more battles between the GC riders the upcoming days.”

Nairo Quintana: “We made the right moves, and I hope I can recover from my recent illness because this was a spectacular stage. We made huge gains into a stage where anything could happen. Here we are, back again. I’m steadily improving from my flu, but I have to wait for tomorrow in the mountains to see how I’m really doing. It’s nice to do so well in what you could call an ‘anti-Nairo’ stage, flat and so windy. I always said I’d give my everything until the very end. Our plan was to make the race leader’s team suffer with those attacks, and ahead in my group, gain as much time as possible. We’re back in contention for La Roja; my health didn’t help me much due to the coughing, but we’ll keep on fighting. And if our legs get tired, we’ll pedal with our heart.”

Alejandro Valverde: “We can only be happy about this result. It was a good stage to try and create some echelons, and thanks to them, we’ve got Nairo back into race contention. If will offer us two very good chances to go for the GC. The split got formed almost inadvertently: I couldn’t get in despite being quite near the front at the start because it was built with riders progressing through the left side of the road, in an instant, with no room for reaction.

Jumbo later tried to close the gap, yet weren’t able to, and that gave us a bigger and bigger advantage. At one of those climbs near the end we accelerated to leave the teams in pursuit without energy, yet Astana was really strong and kept some numbers at the front. Astana really saved Roglic from losing his red jersey, but it’s how cycling works, everyone rides for their own interests. Many people will be suffering after today’s effort and it could play an impact tomorrow, especially those who pushed all day – which I didn’t do, staying all day on others’ wheels.”

Tadej Pogačar “It was flat out all day which is crazy given the stage was over 200km.Tomorrow we are back in the mountains so it will be interesting to see how things go after the fast day today.”

Sam Bennett: “Of course, I wanted to take the win today, but at the end it was a battle six against one. However, Gilbert was the strongest and therefore congrats to him. Today’s stage was from kilometer 0 until the line just ridden with high speed and many attacks. I made it into the breakaway of the day and felt quite good, at the end it was just enough for second place.”

Dylan Teuns: “As I said at the start, it will be a tough day and it was” the Belgian rider explained. “I’m happy I could join the breakaway and stay in the first echelon. The start was very fast and it was hard to stay in front, but once the first big group start to collaborate well, it was much easier. In the final, I still did a good sprint on a kind of finish like this, slightly uphill. I think it’s all about recovery now” Teuns concluded “It’s the third week of La Vuelta and today it was hard for the legs. I hope to recover well for the next three tough days”.

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