Vuelta a Espana - Stage 21: Fuenlabrada - Madrid, 106.6km

Team INEOS completed the 2019 Vuelta a Espana in Madrid following three character-building weeks of racing in Spain.
 
After switching goals early in the race in a bid to infiltrate breakaways and target stage wins, the team were a regular presence in moves throughout the second half of the race.
 
Tao Geoghegan Hart came closest to taking a win, with a third and a second place finish on stages 15 and 16. 
 
The action concluded in Madrid, where Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) was crowned overall victor, with a winning margin of 2:33 over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Nicolas Portal

Nicolas Portal

It wasn’t hard to remain focused on getting something out of the race. The guys are all professional and it’s easy to say ‘okay, GC is over – now we go for stage victories.’
Sport Director Nicolas Portal has overseen the team’s three Grand Tour appearances in 2019, and gave an honest assessment of the race.

He told TeamINEOS.com: “It’s been a different Grand Tour from the last couple of years. We didn’t come here with the specific ambition to finish on the podium or win the Vuelta. 
 
“We had some bad luck before the Giro with Egan (Bernal), which pushed things back to the Tour. We still did a fantastic Giro actually with a young group and a top 10 with Pavel (Sivakov). We ended up with Froomey crashing halfway through the Dauphine, so we started the Tour with G and Egan. We finished first and second, and after that those guys need to refresh.
 
“So we began the Vuelta with a different objective – supporting three guys for GC. For Tao it was another chance for him to go and learn how to ride for GC. He trained hard for that. Wout (Poels) rode well at the Tour and along with David (de la Cruz) they were our three GC guys. After day two all our GC ambitions went away, but despite that it wasn’t hard to remain focused on getting something out of the race. The guys are all professional and it’s easy to say ‘okay, GC is over – now we go for stage victories.’
 
“We had a couple of easier days to refocus the body and mind. Then after that we set about targeting stages. The guys really committed to trying to win a stage from the break. We tried to encourage the guys and point out certain stages, without trying to block them if they wanted to try something. Racing as a team still, which was really important, but trying to win from the break. The guys like to race in this style, but in other ways they find it difficult. So we learned a lot, even as staff members and me as a DS.” 
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Despite the initial disappointment of time loss on the first climbing day of the race, for Geoghegan Hart there were a number of promising signs as he backed up well in the third week.
 
Portal added: “Tao was strong here for sure. He could repeat those hard breakaway efforts in the final week, backing up every day. Sometimes on the mountain days you have 50km flat out before the first mountain. You have to follow the moves and by the time you hit the climb you can be exhausted. So for Tao to continue to be up there, emptying himself, trying everything and then the next day being there again – you can see he’s strong.” 
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The race was also notable as the debut Grand Tour for Owain Doull. The Welshman learned a lot in his Grand Tour debut, and also caught the eye of Portal.
 
“It was Owain’s first Grand Tour and I have to say he’s been fantastic. He really surprised me on some climbs. I was hoping he’d develop like this. You can see his commitment and his mentality, and he’s got an engine. If you can win the Olympic team pursuit you’ve got something. This year he’s really stepped up and been more consistent. He deserved this opportunity, and if he keeps going like this he’s got some really good possibilities for the Grand Tours. Looks at guys like Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Jonathan Castroviejo, Dylan van Baarle – those guys know how to climb and they are really smart. These guys can be examples for him.”

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