A day for a breakaway but the final climb allows the GC contenders to scrap for seconds too.
Stage 17 Review: a stage win for Stefan Denifl. When Aqua Blue were invited to the Vuelta the first thought was “that’s a surprise wildcard” quickly chased by “Denifl’s going to win the mountains jersey” because he’s won the prize in the Tour de Suisse and hows how to pick his moments. But the Austrian has had a quieter start to La Vuelta. It turned out he’s been saving himself so come the final climb and its wild ramps he had the energy to drop the likes of Dani Moreno and Julian Alaphilippe and hold off Alberto Contador.
Contador attacked and surged past Miguel Ángel López who was the first big name to attack but as suggested here yesterday the Spaniard was much more at ease on this kind of climb. Only he could only finish second and is still fifth overall. That stage win could have happened if Trek-Segafredo had joined in the chase led by Astana and Bora-Hansgrohe, a couple of extra pairs of legs and the break could have been reeled in earlier to set up Contador for the first Spanish stage win of the race. He’ll have to wait for the Angliru.
Meanwhile Froome lost time. He was distanced but was this “Covadonga” Froome who paces himself to the finish? No, it was not and at one point he seemed to reach for a gel on the final climb, the sort of thing you’d only do in a panic. Perhaps the cold got to him but he lost time. Vincenzo Nibali might be hopeful but the Angliru climb is steep but steady and hardly the place to take back over a minute.
The Route: 169km and the race goes along the coast of Cantabria before heading inland. This is ambush country where Alberto Contador mugged Joaquim Rodriguez to win the 2012 Vuelta and a series of climbs come, the Collada de Carmona (4.8km, 7.2%), the Collada de Ozalba (6km, 6.6%) and the Collada de la Hoz (7km, 6%). The latter is where Contador launched his race winning bid in 2012.
The Finish: 3.2km 6.4% in the road book sounds OK but this a Mandelbrotian case study as it’s really a 2km climb at 10% including one kilometre at 11% and sections that are even steeper. It’s on a wide road.
The Contenders: a breakaway but who to pick? Julian Alaphilippe is suited to this course but went in the move yesterday meaning wooden legs for today but he’s still a prototype rider for this course. Alexey Lutsensko is good for a powerful finish like this but he’s gone quiet after his strong start. UAE Emirates pair Jan Polanc and Matej Mohoric could strike. Thomas de Gendt is good for a breakaway but his win rate is low, still these steady climbs are ideal terrain for his power.
Among the GC riders Alberto Contador, Michael Woods and Wout Poels have the most “punch” on paper but surely a break will have its chance today.
|Alaphilippe, Polanc, De Gendt, Jungels, Gougeard, Yates
Weather: cloudy and a top temperature of 20°C
TV: It’s on La1 in Spain and Eurosport around much of the world and often on the same broadcaster you watch the Tour de France on. The finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.
Daily Díaz: Do you remember Stage 10 and the lignum crucis ? The monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana has the largest surviving piece of the True Cross. Liébana is a valley surrounded by high peaks and only connected to other lands by hostile mountain passes or narrow canyons. This was the ideal place for an 8th century monk, Beatus, to find the solitude he needed to study the Bible. The result of these meditations is the Commentary on the Apocalypse . This book (often called Beatus) was copied and illustrated in monasteries around Europe, including the 10th century Escorial Beatus, a masterpiece of medieval illumination (image). The cave where Beatus retired gave origin to the monastery where the finish line is.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel