Final Vuelta recap: Rog the Slovenian superhero, Pog the boy wonder and Valverde… the pantomime villain?

So the final Grand Tour of the season is now done and dusted and already the debate has started as to which was the best.

This year’s Vuelta must surely be at the forefront of people’s minds (and not just because it’s only just finished!).

It had literally everything… so here’s a recap of the final week as the race made its way to Madrid.

Stage 17 – Aranda de Duero > Guadalajara – 219.6km

It was a day that wasn’t meant to offer much in the way of entertainment… but the wind clearly had other plans.

Philippe Gilbert was the victor – in record time no less – but the GC battle was blown (geddit?!) wide open by the crosswinds.

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Nairo Quintana dragged himself back into overall contention, finding himself at the right side of the split after getting himself into the front group pretty much from the off.

It was also a good day for Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick Step) who also made the most of the echelons to move up in the top 10.

Knox’s teammates – minus Max Richeze – were all with him at the front and executed the perfect plan to move the young Cumbrian up the GC and snatch the win.

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Gilbert is also now the holder of the Ruban Juane after completing the race at an average speed of 50.63kmph.

Stage 18 – Colmenar Viejo > Becerril de la Sierra – 177.5km

We’ve spent most of this Vuelta talking about the emergence of Tadej Pogacar.

But stage 18 saw another young star – the Colombian Sergio Higuita – announced his arrival on the big stage.

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The EF education rider – who featured in our five for the future round-up – took the honours just a few months into his World Tour career.

It also rescued what had been a disappointing Vuelta for his EF Education First team which had been severely depleted since the crash on stage six.

His compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez had tried to animate the race and did get the better of Pogacar to take the white jersey for the best young rider after a series of attacks across the day.

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The Astana man kept digging away on the final climb but he was eventually dropped by Roglic, Alejandro Valverde and Rafal Majka and had to settle for fourth place.

Stage 19 – Ávila > Toledo – 165.2km

Sometimes the events of the day mean that the winner of the stage will forever be relegated to back of people’s minds.

And stage 19 into Toledo might be one of those days.

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Deceuninck Quick-Step’s Remi Cavagna won the stage with a superb solo victory that was for his aggressive style all race.

The main talking point from the stage, however, is probably destined to be the Movistar actions following a crash involving red jersey-wearer Roglic.

The Spanish team appeared to put the hammer down after Roglic and Sanchez were both caught in a bad crash in the crosswinds.

After 15km they slowed down but it was quite something to see Alejandro Valverde getting an earful from Sanchez who later went further in the post-race interviews.

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The Colombian apologised the morning after but there certainly appears to be no love lost between Astana and Movistar.

Stage 20 – Arenas de San Pedro > Plataforma de Gredos – 190.4km

It seems to have been a Vuelta for the breakaway and the daring… And Tadej Pogacar showed plenty of daring to not only secure his third stage win but also a place on the podium.

The Slovenian also emulated his UAE Team Emirates team manager Giuseppe Saronni – the Italian legend was until now the only rider to have won three stages in a Grand Tour before celebrating his 21st birthday.

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Leapfrogging Lopez and Quintana onto the podium, Pogacar also claimed the white jersey for best young rider to cap a fine GT debut.

The winning move went with just under 40km to go and even though he finished behind Valverde, Roglic allowed himself a smile as it dawn he’d won his and Jumbo Visma’s first Grand Tour.

Stage 21 – Fuenlabrada > Madrid – 100.6km

The procession into Madrid passed off without any dramas for Roglic on a day in which the sun came down on the 2019’s final Grand Tour.

The stage itself was won by Deceuninck Quick-Step’s young Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen who got the better of Sam Bennett on the line.

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And that’s about that. More of the same next year? Yes, please!

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