You wait all year for a stage win and two come along at once.
Phillipe Gilbert (BMC Racing), last year’s King of the Classics, proved that is fast returning to his best form three weeks before the world championships by winning a second stage of the Giro d’Italia.
The Belgian outdragged an impressive breakaway group including Nicholas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), winner of four stages, and Britain’s Ben Swift (Team Sky) to win the 178.4km nineteenth stage from Peñafiel to La Lastrilla.
Gilbert was fancied for a win today, on a stage which climbed steeply in the closing two kilometres.
He said: “I like this kind of finish with a long little climb. We did a great race with the team, especially with Lodewyck and Ballan.
“When I have a teammate like Ballan – a world champion and a winner of Flanders – I have a lot of respect for him. When I saw the work he did for me, I said to myself, ‘I cannot lose.'”
Nicholas Roche made a brave attempt to shake off Gilbert and Degonkolb, but found himself passed by the Belgian and Swift, whose run of run of coming close without winning continued when Gilbert simply rode him off his wheel.
More interesting developments were occurring directly behind, however. GC contenders, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), second overall, and former race leader, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) third, found themselves back on their favourite terrain after succumbing to a superb ride from Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) in the high mountains yesterday.
Valverde pulled back 17 seconds on Contador to move to within 1.35 of the race leader. Rodriguez also pulled back time on El Pistolero, but remains 2.21 down with tomorrow’s giant climb to La Bola del Mundo still to come.
Vuelta a Espana stage 19 – result
1) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – 4.56.25
2) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar
3) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha
5) Gianni Meersman (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +3”
6) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank
7) Jan Bakelants (BEL) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek
8) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
9) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R-La Mondiale
10 ) Sergio Luis Henao (COL) – Team Sky
1) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank – 77.21.49
2) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1.35
3) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +2.21
4) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +9.48
5) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +11.29
6) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +12.00
7) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – Rabobank +12.58
8) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +13.09
9) Igor Anton (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +13.52
10) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar +15.13