Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) won the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta and Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma) the Vuelta a España, both retaining their titles. The German survived a challenging last stage in Madrid from the Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo). The Slovenian triumphed after an exciting duel with Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) from the first day to the last of a shortened (18 instead of 21 stages) route, packed with climbs.
Brennauer emulated the only other rider to have won twice, Belgium's Jolien d’Hoore in 2016 and 2017, thanks to a third place in the uphill sprint in the first stage, a powerful performance in the second day’s ITT and engaging in a great battle with the intermediate sprints in Madrid.
“This was a super hard stage, I’m really proud of my team, how they control the race, they did an awesome job always trying to bring me in the best position and I couldn’t have done any of that without them. It was a tough fight today, but I found that the harder the race became, the best was for me, I tried all the sprints to gain more seconds”, said Brennauer.
Like in 2019 when he finished third in Giro d’Italia, Roglič became the only rider to claim two Grand Tour podiums this year with second place in the Tour de France and, thanks to his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory, he followed Frenchman Laurent Jalabert, the last rider to win La Vuelta plus a Monument (Milan-Sanremo), 25 years ago.
“I never doubted that I would win the Vuelta, even if it’s never finished until you cross the finish line,” said the former ski jumper. “A big thanks to the organisation and everybody involved who made this possible. We can see in the world it’s a really bad situation but we still could do some racing and maybe produce some positive news at the end of the day. I started every day as if this was a Classic, each stage by itself. I’m super-proud of this season”
Three days of battle for the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta
The 2020 edition was the first with three consecutive stages after the one-day race through Madrid's city centre from 2015 to 2017 and the two-day events with the addition of TTT and ITT in Boadilla del Monte in the last two years. The diversified menu offered a first hilly 82.8km road stage from Toledo to Escalona, a 9.3km ITT at Boadilla del Monte and a final 17-lap circuit for a total of 98.6km in Madrid.
After her recent victory in Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) outpowered Italian Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Brennauer by more than a bike length in the final uphill bunch sprint of the first hilly and windy stage.
Defending champion Brennauer was the undoubted favourite for the ITT in Boadilla del Monte since the route was the same as the last edition when she dominated the pack on the technical course with its two short climbs and two U-turns plus several roundabouts. But the German national road champion had to push with all her power until the last meter to beat the impressive time of the Italian national champion Longo Borghini, by just one second.
The GC would be decided on the final stage in Madrid where 5, 2 and 1 bonus seconds were available for each of the eight intermediate sprints, along with a final bonus of 15, 10 and 5 seconds; the final stage became a sort of Omnium with a battle for every sprint. It was a stressful day for the leader because she had to fight with Wiebes in the intermediate sprints and then catch Longo Borghini who attacked solo to claim more bonuses. The stage ended with a bunch sprint won by Balsamo from Wiebes.
Vuelta 2020, a duel between Roglič and Carapaz from the first to the last climb
The first three days of 2020 Vuelta a España were immediately very demanding with challenging climbs that blew up the general classification right away. As expected, the fight for the red jersey exploded on stage 1 with the battle between the favourites on the selective climb to the Alto de Arrate above Eibar in the Basque Country. Roglič defended his 2019 title in the best way, going clear in the final kilometer and crossing the line one second before his most dangerous rival, Carapaz, and the Irishman Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation). The Spaniard Marc Soler (Movistar) arrived solo at Lekunberri with 19 seconds on a nine-man group led by the Slovenian who claimed second place on the day behind Martin in an uphill sprint to La Laguna Negra.
Martin’s compatriot Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) didn’t waste one the few chances of a bunch sprint of this Vuelta in Ejea de los Caballeros, winning in front of Jasper Philipsen (UAE Emirates) from Belgium. A three-man battle on the top of Sabiñánigo decided the fifth stage: the Belgian Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) beat the Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Credits) and the Dutchman Thyman Arensman (Team Sunweb). Then, Carapaz showed his strength in the cold and rainy sixth stage – won by the Spaniard Ion Izagirre (Astana) from the breakaway – attacking on the final climb of the Formigal and taking the leadership from Roglič.
Canadian Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) won stage 7 solo in Villanueva de Valdegovia, attacking from the breakaway and beating the Spanish duo of Omar Fraile (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Roglič recovered immediately, winning two stages in three days and claiming the red jersey again, tied on time with Carapaz. First, with the summit finish on Alto de Moncalvillo with a brilliant attack in the last kilometers moving to second place on GC and then, after the second bunch sprint won by the German Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Aguilar de Campoo, with the uphill reduced group sprint in Suances on stage 10.
Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) claimed the first Grand Tour victory of his career on stage 11 atop the Alto de la Farrapona while the GC favourites saved some precious energy for the queen stage the following day. Briton Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) tamed the fearsome Angliru ahead of Russian Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) and Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar) while Carapaz took advantage of his climbing ability to gain 10 seconds on Roglič, returning to the top of the general classification.
But the Ecuadorian lost the red jersey on the ITT from Muros to Mirador de Ézaro won by Primož Roglič by just one second from the American William Barta (CCC); the Slovenian building a 39-second gap to manage until the end of the race. Tim Wellens claimed his second win on stage 14 to Ourense, while Jasper Philipsen celebrated his first Grand Tour stage victory after an uphill sprint in Puebla de Sanabria. Roglič picked up six precious bonus seconds thanks to his second position behind the Dane Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Pro Cycling) in the reduced group sprint in Ciudad Rodrigo.
Stage 17 to Alto de la Covatilla would become decisive for the final general classification, offering a last chance to Carapaz to reclaim the red jersey. The Ecuadorian succeeded in distancing Roglič on the steepest part of the climb, but the Slovenian managed to limit his loss, demonstrating his mental strength after his shocking loss of the Tour de France on the penultimate stage in favour of his compatriot Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates). He conceded only 21 seconds to Carapaz and maintained a 24-second advantage before the final stage in Madrid, sealing his second successive Vuelta. The last stage in Madrid went to Germany’s Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the bike throw, from Sam Bennett.