Roglic produces trademark win in Vuelta defence bid

Valdepeñas de Jaén (Spain) (AFP) –


Double defending Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic made a statement of intent Wednesday when he hunted down Magnus Cort Nielsen's desperate long range escape for a Stage 11 win that went down to the wire.

Having fallen on Tuesday, Jumbo-Visma's Roglic, instead of struggling, gained a few seconds on key rivals, Movistar pair Enric Mas and Miguel Angel Lopez, and remains the most likely winner when the race arrives in Santiago in ten days time.

That trio made up the podium while Norway's surprise package Odd Christian Eiking held on to the overall lead, just clinging on over the last climb.

Eiking was thrown off the 2017 Vuelta by his team FDJ for going out drinking, but he's the toast of his new team Wanty after beating the main pack home by more than 12 minutes on Tuesday.

"It feels like you can imagine, it feels really, really nice," said Eiking, who is 58sec ahead of Guillaume Martin and 1min 56sec ahead of Roglic in the overall rankings.

Odd Christian Eiking in the red jersey
Odd Christian Eiking in the red jersey JORGE GUERRERO AFP

"It's unbelievable to be leader of such a big race as La Vuelta. For sure it's one of the greatest moments of my career. It's a responsibility, but it's actually also just a bonus for us in the team," said the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert man.

- War of attrition -

This was the Slovenian Roglic's second stage win on the 2021 Vuelta after the Olympic champion took the opening day time-trial by storm.

Primoz Roglic is a physical phenomenon
Primoz Roglic is a physical phenomenon JOSE JORDAN AFP

Considered the most physically powerful rider in the peloton, Roglic leads a war of attrition, picking off 20 sends here and there, and Wednesday he once again produced his trademark late kick to take bonus seconds at the finish.

"It was close again wasn't it? And it was a hard stage," the winner said of the 133km stage run over relentlessly rolling terrain.

"It was a nice finish with a steep uphill where I can normally do well. It's always nice to win, you never know when it'll be your last one," he said.

Egan Bernal came into the Vuelta seeking to complete his set of Grand Tour wins having already won the Tour and the Giro at 24-years-old.

The Inoes man again lost a handful of seconds.

The Colombian climber has gradually slipped to 2min 50sec adrift of Roglic, but is a more adept rider, far less likely to fall or run into trouble, as the Slovenian so often does.

Bernal is also in the white jersey for best riders under 25.

"It's my first Vuelta, I have lots of time," said the Ineos leader who won the Giro in style in May.

Egan Bernal was thirsty on arrival on stage 11
Egan Bernal was thirsty on arrival on stage 11 JORGE GUERRERO AFP

Wednesday's nearly man Cort Nielsen had already won stage six and looked set for a victory here too after crossing the highest peak of the day 45sec ahead.

The powerful EF Nippo man rode alone for 30km but was caught an agonising 200m from the packed village centre finish line.

Thanks to an earlier mountain stage win, Damiano Caruso of Bahrain Victorious is in the leading climber's polka dot jersey after crossing the only summit in second.

Thursday's run from Jaen to Cordoba is a flat stage for the sprinters with Fabio Jakobsen in the green jersey.

His closest rival, Alpecin's Jasper Philipsen pulled out Wednesday complaining of a fever.