Bauke Mollema (Belkin Pro Cycling) continued an excellent season with victory on the seventeenth stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.
The Dutchman, a stage winner at the Tour de Suisse, and sixth overall at the Tour de France, read the crosswinds correctly to deny the sprinters on a flat finish in Burgos.
Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen finished second, while Lampre-Merida’s Maximilliano Richeze was third.
Mollema, one of the most consistent riders in the peloton, with ten top 10 finishes on his palmares already this season, seven on GC, said he had thought all day about attacking in the final kilometre.
“I knew the peloton would be small after the climb in the final kilometres. The crosswinds made up for an even smaller group, so that was perfect,” he said.
“Under the red flag the speed went down. This was my moment. I gave everything I had and suffered a lot but managed to hold on until the line.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) maintained his lead 28 second lead over Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) at the end of the 189km stage from Calahorra, but only after an intense finish to the stage.
Saxo-Tinkoff, riding for Irishman Nicolas Roche, who climbed to fifth overall, 3.43 down on Nibali, split the peloton in the crosswinds, much as they had done on stage 13 of the Tour de France, when the Danish squad reclaimed more than a minute from Team Sky’s Chris Froome for leader, Alberto Contador.
Roche had started the day sixth on GC, but the failure of Domenico Pozzovivo’s Ag2r-La Mondiale team to read the move reversed their positions. Thibaut Pinot’s FDJ squad found themselves on the wrong side of the split too. The Frenchman remains seventh on GC, but his deficit to Nibali has increased to 6.08.
Nibali’s principal rivals – Horner, who is second, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who is third, and fourth-placed Joaquium Rodriguez (Katusha), all read the move correctly.
Boasson Hagen’s narrow defeat continued a run of near misses for Britain’s Team Sky. On the previous stage, his team-mate, Rigberto Uran, lost by a similar margin to Argos-Shimano’s Warren Barguil.
The Norwegian’s disappointment at today’s defeat will have been heightened after coming within similar distance of victory on stage 12, where he lost out to world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
Tomorrow’s mountainous 186.5km eighteenth stage from Burgos is unlikely to offer Boasson Hagen a chance for revenge. The stage contains five categorised climbs, and ends at the first category summit of Peña Cabarga.
Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage 17 – result
1) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – 4.44.28
2) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky – ST
3) Maximilliano Richeze (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
4) Tyler Farrar (USA) – Garmin-Sharp
5) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Radioshack-Leopard
6) Grega Bole (SLO) – Vacansoleil-DCM
7) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha
8) Paul Voss (GER) – NetApp-Endua
9) Jose Herrada (ESP) – Movistar
10) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Saxo-Tinkoff
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 68.50.29
2) Christopher Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard +28″
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.14
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +2.29
5) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff +3.43
6) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +5.09
7) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +6.08
8) Leopold Konig (GER) – NetApp-Endura +6.17
9) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +7.33
10) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana +10.52