Alejandro Valverde moves up to second overall as Colombian Higuita wins stage
Colombia's Sergio Higuita (Education First) won stage 18 as Nairo Quintana and Tadej Pogacar lost time
Overall leader Primoz Roglic came second in another step towards the overall title. Nairo Quintana and Tadej Pogacar however lost ground after several attacks on the tough mountain stage.
Roglic chased down Higuita to finish just 15 seconds behind along with world champion Alejandro Valverde, who climbed back up to second overall.
Miguel Angel Lopez went all out to attack his rivals and moved up to fourth and reclaimed the white jersey as best young rider after dropping Pogacar and causing Quintana to crack. Lopez looks the strongest of the favorites with just three stages remaining.
Roglic now leads Valverde, who moved up to second overall 2m 50s down, with Quintana third at 3m 30s, Lopez fourth at 4m 17s and Pogacar fifth at 4min 48s.
The former Vuelta and Giro winner Quintana had reclaimed more than five minutes after crosswinds caused a split in the peloton on Stage 17, but lost some of it today.
Stage 18 to Becerril de la Sierra was 177km mountainous stage with four 1st category climbs, "I took a risk and it paid off," said Higuita, who attacked on the final climb to solo away with 23 kms remaining.
The final climb saw a huge number of attacks and counter attacks that made Quintana crack and Pogacar slowly lose ground with around 30 kms to go, "It wasn't my best day, maybe we can get something back on Saturday, that looks like the last chance, before Madrid" said " said Pogacar afterwards.
After a disasterous stage for Jumbo-Visma on Wednesday's Stage 17, Primoz Roglic had Americans Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless to look after him until cresting the final climb. With just one more mountain stage on Saturday, Roglic looks set to secure victory, however Movistar with Quintana and Valverde look likely to attack Jumbo-Visma again in the next few stages.
“It’s a dream to be at the Vuelta, riding a Grand Tour,” said Higuita “And now, winning a stage, it’s very important. It’s the biggest win of my sporting career!”
Tomorrow's stage 19 from Avila to Toledo is 163.4 km, in which the sprinters will strive to control the race. The finish will surprise them with a gentle 1 km climb over cobblestones in Toledo. An added challenge for those sprinters vying for victory.
VIDEO: 2019 La Vuelta Stage 18 Highlights
2019 La Vuelta Stage 19 Top 10
1 Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education First 4:33:09
2 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:00:15
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:17
6 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 0:01:16
7 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
9 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
10 Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:03:47
2019 La Vuelta GCF after Stage 19
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 71:16:54
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:50
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:31
4 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:04:17
5 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:04:49
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:07:46
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:09:46
8 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 0:11:50
9 James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:12:44
10 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team 0:21:09