Tour (st. 20) / Giro dell'Appennino
Spaniard from Movistar Team overtakes Miguel Ángel López (AST) at breathtaking TT showdown up La Planche des Belles Filles -with Pogacar (UAD) eventually beating Roglic (TJV)- to claim top-five result in first Grand Tour as Movistar Team leader.
/ Today’s route
A brutal last effort. While time trials are already excruciating, the 36.2km course on stage 20 of the 2020 Tour de France combined the inherent high speeds of a standard ITT with a Cat-1 climb in the end: La Planche des Belles, almost 6km at 8.5% average.
/ Weather report
Temperatures were warm, yet not hot (between 19 and 23ºC), with partly cloudy skies and winds not decisive for this TDF showdown. As forecast for already a couple of days, the Tour would get to Paris with no complications from a meteorological standpoint.
/ Keys to the race
- As Marc Soler (13th at the finish) and Nelson Oliveira (27th) set some early benchmarks for their leaders, the Movistar Team’s two main references differed. The negative side -one the team can’t complain about, coming from one who has done so much for the organisation over the years- was this time for Alejandro Valverde. The former World Champion struggled to find the pace in the flat section of the time trial and picked up the pace through the climb, yet couldn’t hold off his rivals for the coveted final top-ten place. A 12th spot overall which doesn’t hinder a brilliant effort from ‘Bala’.
- The day’s biggest joy, with even a final surprise, came from Enric Mas. Progressing from a sub-par first intermediate check, more than 1′ behind after 14th, the Artà native put on a great display over the initial slopes and completed a great climb to be 9th in the stage (+2’45”), just nine seconds from overtaking Landa (TBM) in the GC, seemingly sixth. However, the two Spaniards finished ahead of López (AST), who lost his podium place against Richie Porte (TFS) and went down to the sixth spot held by Enric overnight. All in all, a fantastic 5th position for Mas in his maiden TDF leading the Movistar Team.
- The biggest surprise came, however, as tables were turned in the GC, with Tadej Pogacar (UAD) surpassing fellow countryman Primoz Roglic (TJV) to claim his first-ever yellow jersey at just 21 years of age with a resounding victory, two minutes ahead of his rival and 1’21” quicker than second-placed Tom Dumoulin (TJV). A day resembling that famous TT from 1989, with LeMond and Fignon, which turns a page in cycling for a new era, where both Pogacar and Mas aspire to continue succeeding.
/ Final overview from Enric Mas
“There’s been some confusion in the end, since we were only aware about Mikel’s times, waiting for his finish -we finished 9” ahead of me in the GC after today’s TT- and we were thinking that the top-5 finish was gone for good, but in the end, we were able to get back that position we wanted before the start, even if indirectly. It’s a great result for Spanish cycling, with Mikel and I in fourth and fifth, I think it’s something to feel proud about.
“Thinking about the team, our overview has to be positive. There were some critics around us before the race, because our performance over the events leading up to the Tour hadn’t been the best, but day by day, we’ve improved our form, our results and things have turned out really well for us in the end. I’m happy with my overall performance, yet I’d like to start the Tour a bit better next year. I’d of course want to finish it as strong as this one, but at the same time, not lost that little time in the opening mountain stages, which could make the difference.
“About the final GC – well, I think it’s been a tight battle between Roglic and Pogacar during these three weeks, but considering the TT results, the best man on course won and deserved that success. We’ll continue fighting over the next years to get closer to that top step.”
/ Upcoming goals
… And tomorrow, the most famous avenue in the world. A happier finish than ever, for everything it took to restart the season and the emotions to be able to take to fruition the most important event of the season. 122km and eight final laps in Paris to enjoy, climb onto the final podium of the Tour and, starting on Monday, think about the upcoming goals in such a challenging 2020 season.
/ Over in Italy…
Saturday’s racing for the Movistar Team also included the 81st edition of the Giro dell’Appennino in Italy, the Blues’ debut into a mountainous course (191km) with five rated ascents and the Passo della Bochetta (1 km at 6.8%) as biggest difficulty towards Genova’s finish.
Sebastián Mora shone early on into the morning break as Jorge Arcas, who got through the last series of climbs into the elite front group, took 14th place behind sprint winner Ethan Hayter (IGD). Davide Villella (19th) also finished inside that leading group.
RESULTS > 2020 Giro dell’Appennino
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto