AG2R's Alexis Gougeard has won Stage 19 of the 2015 Vuelta in the walled city of Avila this afternoon, riding more than 20 kilometres solo after attacking from what had been a big breakaway group of 24 riders. Meanwhile race leader Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin gained a few seconds over his nearest rival, Fabio Aru of Astana.
Second place on the 185.8 kilometre stage from Medina del Campo went to Nelson Oliveira of Lampre-Merida, with Maxime Montfort of Lotto-Soudal third.
Ahead of tomorrow's decisive stage in the mountains outside Madrid, where the race will finish in Sunday with a stage for the sprinters, the riders contesting the overall victory gave the break plenty of leeway today and finished more than a quarter of an hour behind the winner.
But with a twisting, partly cobbled drag up towards the line, Dumoulin seized the initiative to go on the attack, and managed to gap Aru, who was 3 seconds behind him on the General Classification this morning.
Dumoulin now leads by 6 seconds, which may not be enough for him to defend the lead successfully tomorrow - although what remains to be seen is the effect a crash today will have on Aru, who needed attention from the race doctor.
The race organisers, however, will be satisfied that this year's route has provided a 70th edition of the Vuelta that is going right down to the wire.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.