Vuelta a Espana 2020
Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) took a sensational victory atop the murderous Angliru climb on stage 12 of the Vuelta a España, riding away from the other GC favourites just before the flamme rouge.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos) then came over the line 16 seconds later, with Carapaz having taken the red jersey off of Primož Roglič.
The Slovenian struggled on the final climb, shepherded to the finish by Sepp Kuss as he looked to limit his losses, but ultimately shipping 10 seconds to the new race leader.
Carapaz now leads Roglič by 10 seconds in the general classification, with Carthy up to third, 32 seconds adrift, and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) only three seconds behind him.
Only 109km in length, what stage 12 made up for in length it compensated for in height, with the riders navigating a number of climbs on their way to the mythical Angliru, which would see the GC battle erupt.
Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ) and Julius van den Berg (EF Pro Cycling) were the first to have a small gap over the peloton after the race rolled out, with a number of others scrambling to get on their wheel.
Soon, a group of around 20 were off the front, including the polka dot jersey of Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), while Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) left it late to try jump across to the break.
Martin took the points at the top of the warm-up category three, as the break found themselves two and a half minutes ahead of the peloton, with the Formolo group chasing in between.
Jumbo-Visma were holding the gap with a hard pace, not letting it increase, around 60km remaining on the stage, as Martin took maximum points once again over the second third category ascent.
Reaching the halfway mark of the stage, David de La Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked the peloton, Thymen Arensman (Sunweb) and Ivo Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) soon joining them in their move.
Movistar then came to the front of the peloton, bringing the gap to the breakaway down near the minute mark, as Chaves and Oliveira were dropped from De La Cruz’s move.
Martin again led over the top of the first of three category one climbs on the route today, and on the descent Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) hit the deck having made it across to the break, before Ineos’ Andrey Amador also crashed behind in the peloton.
Martin then pushed on from the breakaway on the descent, taking Roux, Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) and Ángel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) with him as the gap came down to under a minute with 35km to the line.
Their move didn’t last long, though, as the gap between the break and the bunch came down to around half a minute as Movistar continued to push the pace.
Luis Léon Sánchez (Astana) and Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) then rode away from the break, with Martin chasing back up to them.
Froome then came to the front, not for a protest this time, but to set the pace with 22km to go, riding away from the peloton with Carapaz on his wheel as the gradient hit 10 per cent on the Alto del Cordal, splitting the peloton as Jumbo-Visma moved back to the front, on high alert now.
Martin again took the points over the summit, as Marc Soler (Movistar) dropped from the peloton behind, as their number was reduced to two dozen riders with 20km to go.
With the Angliru looming ahead the breakaway only had 25 seconds advantage, with Cattaneo the first to drop as the escapees began the climb, and soon Martin and Sánchez were caught as well with just over 10km remaining.
Froome then started to fall back, his job done for the day and another marker in the improvement of his form.
Jumbo-Visma had numbers at the front, Gesink leading their train with Carapaz on his own and then Movistar tucked in behind.
Soler’s group, which contained Froome, were now 1-20 in arrears with 7.5km to go, the Spaniard paying for and undoing all his good work on stage 11.
Gesink was still thrashing away on the front, the riders behind starting to suffer now, the Dutchman eventually pulling off with 6.6km remaining, the 23-year-old Dane Jonas Vingegaard taking over, Sepp Kuss in his wheel.
Only Vingegaard, Kuss, Roglič, Dan Martin, Mas, Carthy, Woods, Poels, Carapaz and Vlasov were left up the front now, the GC group shattering as the gradient started to ramp up to 15 per cent, and worse yet to come. Carapaz was near the back, the group bookended by Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), the last man in the line.
Mikel Nieve was doing his best to try and get back on terms with those up front, looking to hang on to his GC top 10 as he dangled 20 seconds behind, with Vingegaard still leading as he showed what he was capable of.
Poels was detached with 4.3km remaining as Carapaz hung on at the back, all riders grimacing as they pushed up the climb, spreading across the road as the gradient kept increasing.
Mas then made his move with 3.5km to go, Kuss not immediately chasing as Vingegaard peeled off and dropped like a stone.
Woods was dropped as Martin also started running out of steam, Carapaz going around Vlasov to stay in contact. Kuss then started gapping Roglič, receiving orders on the radio as Mas was coming back to them.
Carthy then accelerated with 3km to go, Vlasov going with him, as Kuss looked around for Roglič, Carapaz and Martin holding on to the back of that group.
Mas rounded a hairpin and saw Carthy coming up to him, Vlasov trying to also get on terms as Martin sprinted out of his saddle to get back ont0 the Roglič group.
The riders all started coming back together, apart from Mas who was managing to maintain his gap off the front, the gradient now ramping up to 23.5 per cent.
Roglič was suffering as Kuss kept checking behind him for his leader. Martin now took up the chase at the front of the chasing group, before Kuss took over again.
The helicopter camera looked as if it was in slomo as the riders battled up the final few kilometres of the climb, Mas’ gap still holding and the Spaniard’s face crumpled in anaerobic effort.
Carapaz had recovered and now launched after Mas, who started coming back quickly under the 2km to go banner, Carthy trying to get across.
The Ecuadorian soon caught Mas, Carthy on his wheel, as Martin and Vlasov tried to bridge across with Kuss and Roglič were a bit further back.
Carapaz turned the screw once more, Carthy rocking all over his bike with Mas just managing his effort for the moment, daylight now between the leading trio and the four chasers behind.
Roglič was struggling, Vlasov and Martin repeatedly distancing him, with Mas and Carthy letting Carapaz set the pace as he rode himself into the red jersey.
Carthy then made his move, accelerating away with 1.2km to go, managing to make a gap under the flamme rouge as Mas tried to react.
His face a picture of pain, Carthy threw his bike all over the road, willing it to continue even if he had nothing left.
Mas and Vlasov were in pursuit with Carapaz trying to get back to them, but it was too late as Carthy sped away as the gradient relented, Carthy looking furious as he crossed the line, such was the effort it had taken to deliver the biggest victory of his career so far.
With the hardest climb of this race over, and an individual time trial awaiting the riders after the rest day, Roglic – already a triple stage winner in this Vuelta – will be confident he can take back the 10 seconds he conceded to his rival from Ineos to move back into the red jersey on Tuesday.
With Carapaz back in red, Roglic will tackle the 33.7km time trial – which concludes with the punchy climb of Mirador el Ezaro – in a green skin-suit as leader of the points classification.