Stage 7 may prove to be a defining moment in the 2019 Vuelta a Espana for UAE Team Emirates as the cream of the General Classification rose to the top – with Fabio Aru and Tadej Pogacar asserting themselves as serious contenders by taking top 10 positions in the race, and the overall GC, behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde.
The 183.2km route, which started in Onda, featured five categorized climbs and finished with a punishing ascent up the Mas del la Costa. A select group of riders, including Aru and Pogacar, hit the bottom as a unit but began to splinter as the ramps pitched up to gradients in excess of 20%.
Both UAE Team Emirates riders fought their way up the climb valiantly and crossed the line together to claim 7th and 8th spots, just 51” behind the Spanish World Champion.
Their efforts also put both riders firmly into the General Classification top 10, where they now sit at 6th (Pogacar) and 10th (Aru).
Speaking to his performance, Pogacar said: “It wasn’t just the last climb that was tough, it was the whole day. It was really fast right from the start making this stage the hardest of the week. I am feeling in good shape at the moment, so we will have to wait and see about tomorrow – and then we have our rest day.”
Aru added: “I definitely felt better than the last few days but the left leg is not 100% yet. Today I had a lot of fatigue, but at the same time I did the last climb better than I expected. I hope to be back at 100% soon.”
Stage 7 also proved to be a memorable one for Sergio Henao as he climbed his way up the Mountains Classification – where he now sits in second. The race was, once again, fast and furious from the off – with multiple early breakaways being closed down by the peloton.
After 60-minutes on the road the average speed was just shy of 50km/h – but that didn’t deter Henao and a small group of companions trying and succeeding to create a gap ahead of the first categorised climb up Puerto del Marianet. Henao was the quickest over the top, picking up his first set of mountain classification points.
The trend continued as he worked with the breakaway to crest three more summits, take maximum points and jump up to his current spot.
On Saturday La Vuelta heads from Valls to Igualada for stage 8. The hilly route is just 166.9km long and with only one categorised climb along the way it will either be a day for the breakaway or one for the sprinters to contend.
Stage 7 results:
General Classification after stage 7:
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