INTERMARCHÉ
WANTY GOBERT

Vuelta a Espana

Eiking: “No regrets, only pride”


Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, which led to Lagos de Covadonga, promised to be decisive for the general classification. In addition to the well-know summit finish (12.5 km at 7%), the riders would face the climb of La Collada Llomena (7.6 km at 9.1%), a new difficulty that had to be completed twice.

And this 186-kilometer stage through Asturias proved to be intense right from the start thanks to the fight to create a breakaway. However, no rider managed to escape after an hour of racing, despite the Altu de Hortigueru (5.3 km at 4.7%) encountered after 35 kilometers. With no clear breakaway in sight, the contenders for the leader’s jersey, worn by Odd Christian Eiking, launched the hostilities in the first ascent of Collada Llomena.

Never surrendering, the Norwegian resisted the high tempo of his opponents until the second time on the Collada Llamena. It was in this climb, 60 kilometers from the finish, that Roglic (Jumbo) and Bernal (Ineos) distanced the rest of the pursuit of around fifteen riders. Part of this second group was Louis Meintjes (13th overall), who could rely on his teammate Jan Hirt as the rain appeared on the roads of the Vuelta. A wet asphalt that did not spare the red jersey, victim of a crash on the descent of the penultimate ascent as he was getting closer to the pursuit. This new setback did not bring down Eiking who, helped by Simone Petilli, fought bravely to reach the finish line.

An epic final climb saw a man-on-man battle between GC contenders, under rain and fog. Roglic won the stage and became the new leader of the race. Louis Meintjes took ninth place, solidly supported by Hirt (14th). The South African now occupies 12th place in the general classification, just behind Eiking (11th). The overall standings could change again tomorrow, with a mountaintop finish in Altu El Gamoniteiru, preceded by three more difficulties.

Yesterday I said that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I couldn’t keep the jersey in this hard stage and I’m still thinking the same today. Those two weeks were fantastic and I’m very proud. Until today, luck has been on my side. Unfortunately I had back luck today, just before joining the group of favorites. I saw a crash in front of me and my wheel slipped on the very slippery surface. It is a pity, because without this time loss I would probably still have been close to the top 5 in the general classification tonight. The good thing is that I don’t have a bad injury. Of course I’m feeling stiff and we’ll have to wait until tomorrow before knowing how my body reacts to this crash. Louis and I are knocking on the door of the top 10 of the classification, so this is a nice goal for the coming days! 

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