Chris Froome set to win 2017 Vuelta a Espana as Alberto Contador solos to Angliru stage win
Spaniard closes out career with iconic stage win; Froome finishes third to all-but-secure red jersey
Chris Froome is set to win the 2017 Vuelta a Espana after extending his overall lead on a day in which Alberto Contador signed off his career with a solo win on the gruelling Alto de l’Angliru.
Contador has been in imperious form throughout his final professional race, attacking at every opportunity in a bid to cut his overall losses, suffered in Andorra, and end his career on a high note.
And the Spaniard finally got his reward on the final mountain stage of this year’s race, attacking with team-mate Jarlinson Pantano at the bottom of the Alto del Cordal, the day’s penultimate climb before soloing to victory.
Froome and team-mate Wout Poels crossed the line 17 seconds behind Contador, meanwhile, distancing the red jersey’s other chief rivals to all-but-secure an historic Tour-Vuelta double.
The final stage of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana was short, at 117.5km, and laden with climbs, but Froome was attentive from the off to avoid a repeat of last year’s similarly short, punchy stage, which cost him his chance of overall victory.
There were plenty of big names in the breakaway which formed nine kilometres into the stage, however, including Adam and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and stage 17 winner Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport).
But with Trek-Segafredo eyeing up the stage win, Team Sky had plenty of helpers on the front of the peloton.
The gap was just 1’20” over the summit of the first climb, the Alto de la Cobertoria, with the pace high in the peloton behind as Team Sky shut down an attempted attack by Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain-Merida team-mates.
Already the breakaway was splitting up too, and by the time the climb of the Alto del Cordal started, the front group consisted of Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), two-time stage winner in this year’s race Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal), Marc Soler (Movistar), Lluis Mas (Caja-Rural), Bardet and the Yates twins.
In the peloton, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) was forced to chase back on but the GC men were just a minute behind the breakaway.
Rain on the descent added another hazard to the mix – laid bare when a race motorbike crashed on the way down – while Soler also crashed at the front of the race.
Second-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) suffered on the slick roads, and had to chase back on after a crash of his own, while David de la Cruz (QuickStep Floors) was forced to abandon after also hitting the deck.
After the fraught descent, Marczynski started climbing with an 18-second lead on the Angliru but that gap never looked likely to hold.
Contador, Pantano and Enrico Mas (QuickStep Floors) accelerated out of the GC group and picked off the early attackers, while Froome’s group was just 40 seconds behind them.
On the rough roads, Contador pushed on alone but retained his rhythm over the super-steep sections of the climb, roared on by massive crowds keen to see him end the race, and his career, with a famous victory.
He was a minute clear at one point, but when Froome and Poels attacked from the small chasing group, with none of Froome’s rivals able to respond, they ate into that lead.
Contador, however, dug deep to maintain his advantage and pull out his iconic pistol salute one final time, followed just 17 seconds later by Poels and Froome.
With an advantage of 2’15” over Nibali, and 2’51” over third-placed Zakarin, Froome will now win the Vuelta a Espana for the first time, barring disaster in Madrid on the flat, final stage.
Vuelta a Espana 2017: stage 20 – result
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo – 3.31.33hrs
2) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky +17”
3) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
4) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha-Alpecin +35”
5) Franco Pellizotti (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida +51”
6) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida – ST
7) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
8) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Team Sunweb +1.11
9) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.25
10) Michael Woods (CAN) – Cannondale-Drapac +1.36
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 79.23.37hrs
2) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida +2.15
3) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha-Alpecin +2.51
4) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo +3.11
5) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Team Sunweb +3.15
6) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky +6.45
7) Michael Woods (CAN) – Cannondale-Drapac +8.16
8) Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) – Astana +8.59
9) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +11.04
10) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +15.36
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