Caruso wins on Vuelta mountain as Roglic tightens grip

Alto de Velifique (Spain) (AFP) –


Bahrain Victorious rider Damiano Caruso won Sunday's mountainous ninth stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Primoz Roglic strengthened his grip on the overall lead, coming second ahead of Enric Mas.

Colombian hope Egan Bernal was unable to follow Jumbo-Visma's Roglic and Movistar's Mas as the competition stiffened on the upper reaches of a 13.2km ascent to Alto de Velefique.

Caruso, a 33-year-old Italian, was runner up on the Giro d'Italia in May and on Sunday promised to attack from distance before his winning effort.

He was able to pace himself up the final 13km ascent after building a lead of around five minutes over the red jersey group by the foot of the climb, with Slovenian Roglic just 1 minute 05 seconds off his pace by the finish line.

Caruso attacked alone with 71km to go.

"The last climb was so long," an exhausted but exuberant Caruso said at the finish line.

"It's still unbelievable what I did. It was an amazing feeling and a repeat of this feeling after the Giro is incredible for me."

Ineos' Colombian leader Bernal came in 2min 10 sec down on Caruso, leaving questions over the 24-year-old adding a Vuelta victory to his Tour de France in 2019 and Giro in May.

- Alliance of fortune -

Roglic has a reputation of going to pieces when isolated from his team, but on Sunday he struck an alliance of fortune with Mas when the pair sensed Ineos duo Bernal and a Adam Yates could be dropped.

After crossing the finish line with the Ineos riders a minute adrift, Mas and Roglic shook hands warmly.

Primoz Roglic complained of the heat on Sunday, but the heat was on his rivals
Primoz Roglic complained of the heat on Sunday, but the heat was on his rivals Jose Jordan AFP

"He's the leader and it was good to work with him, we went together," said an enthusiastic Mas, who is 28sec off Roglic in second place overall.

Roglic refused to be drawn on his feelings over how bad this was for Ineos.

"It was super hot again," he complained. "I survived."

"It's a beginning. Now we have the rest day, and we just need to stay in one piece healthy with the whole team and then we'll be looking for the next stages," said the double defending champion.

Monday is the Vuelta's first rest day ahead of four hilly, one flat and two mountain stages in the week ahead, followed by another rest day.

The final week holds three tough mountain stages and a final-day individual time-trial at the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostella.