Oh how quickly things can change in a week at a grand tour. Last weekend Movistar were in the perfect position to attack the rest of the race, with Quintana leading the overall and Valverde looking unstoppable on the steep climbs. However, a time-trial and a superb Slovenian have halted Movistar's domination, with Quintana slipping away as the race heated up. Here are 5 things we learnt this weekend at the Vuelta a España.
Jumbo-Visma's GC challenger Primoz Roglič now comfortably leads the overall and the team look confident of winning the red jersey, having the luxury to send spare riders in search of stage wins. Sepp Kuss was given the license to achieve individual glory on Stage 15, whilst teammate Roglič tightened his grip on the overall victory in a show of authority by the Dutch outfit.
Kuss, the 24 year old American, took his maiden Grand Tour stage victory as he celebrated with fans at the summit of the Puerto del Acebo. It was an impressive victory, holding off riders Ruben Guerreiro (Katusha Alpecin) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos) to take the win by 39 seconds.
Meanwhile Roglič rode strongly up the final climb, sticking to rival Alejandro Valverde's wheel whilst putting more time into Pogačar, Lopez and Quintana. Nothing is guaranteed in cycling, but Roglič is now in an assured position going into the final week.
Bennett Shows Sprint Dominance
Bora-Hansgrohe were able to keep their sprinter safe and well-positioned to take a depleted bunch victory on stage 14. With around 800 meters to go the win looked almost certain for the in-form sprinter of 2019.
The stage win for Sam Bennett signifies an immense season for the Irishman, with 13 wins already this year. A second stage win at the Vuelta comes after winning the Irish National Championships, 2 stage wins at Paris-Nice and 3 stage wins at the BinckBank Tour.
Bennett is looking good for more stage wins in the final week with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his sprinting prowess.
Simple Flat Stages are Never that Simple
Despite a sprint victory for Sam Bennett seeming formulaic, for the other sprinters it wasn't so simple. The added pressure of a grand tour can turn a simple flat stage into complete pandemonium.
As the peloton sped through the one-kilometre to go banner, a touch of wheels brought down the peloton in what was a horrific crash for those involved. Tadej Pogačar went over the handlebars and Alejandro Valverde was also brought down, whilst Primoz Roglic seemed to unclip and fall over as a result.
Other riders were not so lucky, with Mitchelton-Scott's Luka Mezgec being carted off in an ambulance and subsequently withdrawing from the race. Such a big crash mid-way through a grand tour can be devastating for riders, who will now carry their injuries all the way to Madrid.
Tadej Pogačar Continues to Shine
The 20-year old now sits in 3rd on GC and has taken two stage victories in this year's Vuelta. He is also first in the young riders competition and third in the mountains classification, a stunning all round performance. Undoubtedly a breakthrough grand tour for Pogačar, who shows all the promise for a grand tour victory in the near future.
Having already proven his strength, the young rider will be hoping he can hang on to a podium position by surviving the final week. Crashing on stage 14, Pogačar looked to be suffering on the final climb, however dug deep to stay with Lopez. He will now have to produce a huge effort to hang on for a top 3 in Madrid.
Valverde in the form of his life
Alejandro Valverde is experiencing an Indian summer of his career as World Champion and best of the rest at the Vuelta. The Spanish rider is the only person capable of matching the race leader's pace on the climbs and is the best chance that Movistar have of winning the race.
The veteran Spaniard has repeatedly attacked the race with Roglič being the only rider who can respond. Seeing the world champion in such fine form is a magnificent sight to behold and he will be looking to retain his title in Yorkshire at this year's World Championships.
Still left to play for...
Whilst Roglič is in a great position to win the 2019 Vuelta, nothing is certain and Movistar will definitely be trying to crack the Slovenian in the mountains of the final week.
Battles between podium finishers and top-10 hopefuls will also start to unfold, which can be equally as exciting as the battle for the overall. Most notably Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Carl Frederik Hagen (Lotto-Soudal) are surprise names that will be desperately trying to cling on to their top-10 positions.
The mountains classification is still left to play for with Ángel Madrazo (Burgos BH) still looking to hold onto the jersey despite being pursued by Pogačar and Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale). We can also expect further fireworks with Team Ineos who are desperately chasing a stage victory with Tao Geoghegan Hart nearly securing a win on stage 15.