Six days after holding off Primoz Roglic for a hard-fought victory in Stage 6, Denmark’s Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) came very close to doubling up in Valdepenas de Jaen by doing exactly the same – only to be caught inside the final 150 metres of a thrilling uphill finale to Stage 11.
The last man standing from a five-man breakaway, Cort stayed clear on the only categorised climb of the day – the Puerto de Locubin – before arriving at the foot of the ramped rise to the finish inside the final kilometre with just 15 seconds to play with.
But once Roglic kicked clear of the main pack with his Spanish rival Enric Mas in tow, Cort’s brave effort came to a painful end – the 28-year-old fading to the most misleading 25th place you will see all season.
Vuelta a España
‘The downside of having too much money’ – Wiggins on Ineos' muddled Vuelta strategy
One day after crashing on the final descent and conceding the red jersey to Odd Christian Eiking, Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) came out on top of his dual with Movistar’s Mas to win his second stage of the race – and the seventh in his Vuelta career – by three seconds.
Mas took a well-earned second place, two seconds clear of his Colombian teammate Miguel Angel Lopez, with Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-PremierTech) all finishing seven seconds down.
Norway’s Eiking (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) put in a solid ride in red to take 10th place behind Colombia’s Egan Bernal and ahead of his nearest challenger on GC, the Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis). Eiking retains his 58-second lead over Martin in the standings, with Roglic moving to within 1:56 of the red jersey summit he has twice already occupied since the start of this Vuelta in Burgos.
Roglic’s principal adversaries remain the Movistar duo of Mas and Lopez, who now trail the Slovenian by 35 seconds and 1:32 respectively.
'Luckily I had a little more at the end'- Roglic on his battle with Mas to take stage 11 win
Cort was part of a five-man move which finally extricated itself from the peloton after a fast and furious opening 30km to the 133km stage from Antequera. The Dane was joined by Belgian duo Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Fenix) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) and Spaniards Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Joan Bou (Euskadi-Euskatel) in a seemingly doomed move that never gained much more than two minutes over the pursing pack.
Perhaps eyeing a win for their sprinter-puncheur Michael Matthews (the Australian who eventually finished 23rd), Team BikeExchange controlled the tempo on the front of the peloton alongside Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma as the race passed through the picturesque olive plantations and over the rolling hills of Andalusia during what was the shortest road stage of the race.
As the gap came down to just 50 seconds ahead of the only categorised climb, the Cat.2 Puerto de Locubin, Cort took matters into his own hands as he jettisoned his fellow escapees. The Dane’s lead was down to just 20 seconds going over the summit with 8km remaining as Italy’s Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) snaffled up the points for second place to consolidate his lead in the polka dot jersey standings.
Vuelta a España: Highlights as Roglic bounces back to take Stage 11 win
That advantage was a meagre 15 seconds as Cort went under the one-kilometre banner and started the uphill grind to the finish. On slopes that peaked at 25 per cent, the EF Education-Nippo rider dug deep and gave it his all. But this time his pursuer – the same rider he denied in Stage 6 – was feeling less charitable.
Teed up by his American teammate Sepp Kuss, Roglic inadvertently closed the door on Mas who was forced to check his speed to avoid hitting the barriers as the road narrowed. Mas then used this adrenaline kick to bound clear – the two best riders of this Vuelta riding shoulder-to-shoulder as they appeared to share a heated discussion as Cort still battled further up the road.
When Mas danced on the pedals again, Roglic darted out of his wheel and surged ahead as the pair passed the unfortunate Cort inside the final 150 metres. Behind, Yates and Haig led the chase – although both would be passed by the Colombian Lopez in the closing moments: the top three on the stage mirroring the top three riders and virtual podium of this race.
But Eiking and Martin deserve credit for their own competitive displays to limit their losses and remain – at least on paper – the top two in the standings ahead of two days which should reopen the doors to the sprinters and breakaway specialists.
The withdrawal of Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen – a double stage winner from the opening week – hands the initiative over to Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen, himself a double stage winner. Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Jakobsen now leads the green jersey standings by 96 points with his nearest challenger being that man Cort.
Thursday’s Stage 12 from Jaen to Cordoba is a hilly 175km affair which includes two categorised climbs ahead of a flat finish where a breakaway, or a reduced sprint, is likely to play out.
- - -
You can watch La Vuelta live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.
Vuelta a España
Blazin’ Saddles: Roglic vs Pogacar vs a fully fit Bernal for the Tour – make it happen
Vuelta a España
Dragonfly hitches ride on Kruijswijk