Roglič looked to have trouble on his hands when Carapaz stormed away with three kilometres to go on the upper slopes of La Covatilla. He started the day with a margin of 45 seconds over the Venezuelan and Carapaz quickly pushed out the lead to 20 seconds.
With some very timely assistance from a teammate who had been in the breakaway, Lennard Hofstede, on a flatter section in the final kilometres, it was just down to a final rise to the finish as Carapaz crossed line and then the countback to Roglic began. The Slovenian defending champion of La Vuelta was able to dig deep and confine his losses to just 21 seconds on the stage, more than enough to secure 'la roja'.
“It became very exciting in the last kilometres”, Roglic stated afterwards. “I knew it would be enough to retain the overall lead if I kept my own pace. In the end it all falls into place and I’m still wearing the red jersey."
Roglič made a point of finding Carapaz after the stage and acknowledging him, reminiscent of his hug with Pogačar after being past by his countryman in the decisive penultimate stage of the Tour de France. Here, the second to last stage of La Vuelta was kinder to him and he spoke of the challenge of facing Carapaz.
"Carapaz showed that he is very strong," said Roglič . "I didn’t always have everything under control, but I never had the feeling that I would lose the red jersey. I stayed focused and did my own thing. That turned out to be enough to keep my place in the rankings.
"The whole team showed themselves today. My teammates did a really good job today, as they have done throughout the Vuelta. Until now, we have been focused every day. We have to stay focused for one more day and then it’s over.”
The Slovenian star looked vulnerable in the final kilometres, but received unexpected assistance from Marc Soler of Movistar, who was looking to help teammate Enric Mas distance Dan Martin to move up to fourth overall. It's hard to say how much of a difference that would have made in the final standings, but it no doubt played a role, along with the presence of Hofstede.
“Every guy you have around [with you] is super-welcome and for all of us it was a big, big fight to the finish," said Roglič. "But Lennard, especially, was also super-welcome.”
Not all sport is a linear narrative, but there appeared to be a call back to events at the Tour de France as it again looked like a potential late overhaul of the Slovenian was on the cards. Roglič revealed that while tough at the time, he took upon the emotions of that performance and it wasn't playing on his mind in the final kilometres of the climb.
"Like I said, I’m always a guy that wants to race," said Roglič. "I just move on, huh? I had to accept it, I was second (at the Tour de France) which is a beautiful achievement, and I had quite a few obstacles to come to the Tour. But we did a beautiful Tour with the whole team, I couldn’t have dreamed of riding so well for three weeks.
“Coming here was quite different. I’d won a Monument at Liège, and then I was here trying to win a three-week Vuelta. I started every day as if this was a Classic, each stage by itself, and today - or actually tomorrow - we get to the finish: beautiful.
“I’m super-proud of this season, all the things we did, because in four months I’ve been home in ten days. So that’s quite a big block, and I’m grateful for all the support I’ve had.”
La Vuelta a Espana concludes tonight (early Monday morning AEDT) with the traditional finale in Madrid from 12.30am AEDT, broadcast on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand.