A long and scenic stage, normally promised to the sprinters but with so few of them left, the hilly terrain could help another breakaway stay away for the day.
Stage 17 Wrap: IAM Cycling keep on winning, this time Mathias Frank won the stage after joining the day’s breakaway and then forcing the pace later on despite a challenge from Robert Gesink, Dario Cataldo and Leopold König, all Vuelta stage winners. The latter must be desperate to salvage something, everyone saw Chris Froome losing the Vuelta last weekend but König also lost his 5th place overall, a valuable position given the points available and the lively transfer market.
The Route: 200km and a return to the coast, via over 2,500m of vertical gain along the way and scenic for much of the way with the Puerto de Casa del Alto, 13km at 4%.
The Finish: a fast run into Gandía with two roundabouts inside the final kilometre but they’re wide before a 600m straight run to the line.
The Contenders: a sprint and a chance for Etixx-Quickstep to make amends for the lead-out that faded earlier on Monday, leaving Gianni Meersman floundering. Jempy Drucker won and showed a powerful sprint. Nikias Arndt has been getting close, maybe he’s the pick for Sunday’s stage in Madrid instead? Bora-Argon 18’s Rüdiger Selig has been close but remains an unlikely winner.
Can the breakaway stick? The hillier terrain rewards them and it’ll be interesting to see which teams send riders up the road, for example BMC Racing can rely on Drucker for the sprint but don’t need to give him a big lead out so they can send riders up the road again, think Dylan Teuns for example. It’s a lottery but why not keep an eye on Zdeněk Štybar, the Czech rider has had a discreet Vuelta so far.
|Gianni Meersman, J-P Drucker
|Arndt, Selig, Sbaragli, Štybar
Weather: hot and sunny with a top temperature of 33°C