Three seconds separate race leader Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru and today’s stage offers time bonuses and a late climb. It should be a day for a breakaway but will Astana and Giant-Alpecin try their own battles?
Stage 17 Wrap: Tom Dumoulin did the dubbelslag, the double strike of stage win and the overall lead. The Dutchman now has a slender three second lead over Fabio Aru, tiny and there are intermediate and finish line time bonuses too.
Maciej Bodnar led the leaderboard for a long time and Alejandro Valverde came close, a surprise. Among the major candidates Fabio Aru had the best day but how can he turn around a three second deficit? Dumoulin is proving hard to shake and if Aru tried an intermediate sprint he’d find the Giant-Alpecin sprint train in response with John Degenkolb leading Dumoulin. It suggests and all out attack is coming in the mountains. Spare a thought for Joaquim Rodriguez who looks to have lost the race once again.
The Route: a long day with 203km to cover. There are two climbs before the halfway point but these are gentle 4% slopes.
The Puerto de la Quesera looms large on the profile but it’s not a hard climb, 10km at 5% with only a few brief sections at 7%. It’s a tactical launchpad for the stage win if there’s a breakaway and followed by a twisty descent before the road straightens out with 4km to go.
The Finish: a slight downhill run in to town on a regular road.
The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway and the usual suspects like Alessandro de Marchi, Nelson Oliveira and Steven Cummings. Some will be tired from their efforts yesterday so a few other names to conjure like Giovanni Visconti, Nicolas Roche and Omar Fraile.
Will Simon Gerrans emerge? He’s had a very discreet race so far. Andrew Talansky was 154th yesterday, was the US TT champion coasting to save today or does this mark a bad season for him? There’s still a chance of a sprint finish from a reduced group, here John Degenkolb, J-J Rojas look the best bets.
Look out for Lotto-Jumbo today, they have said they’ll help Dumoulin and Giant-Alpecin out, a public mention of a conspiracy normally kept private. We’ll see what they do.
|John Degenkolb, J-J Rojas
|Roche, Visconti, de Marchi, Fraile
Weather: sunny and temperature of 25°C.
Daily Díaz: Don’t expect big crowds along the road today. Not only because the Vuelta attracts far less spectators than the Giro or the Tour, but also because this is one of the less populated regions of Spain. Extensive areas of the country suffered a rural exodus in the 20th century, sending emigrants to the industrial or tourist zones around Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or the Basque Country. As a result, many towns lost population, and some even were completely abandoned (ghost towns). What’s more concerning, the remaining population is usually very old and ageing every year, and so its future doesn’t look promising at all. Another kind of ghost towns are the so-called ghost estates, houses built during the Spanish property bubble that were never inhabited or even sold.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel