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Vuelta’17 St17: So Close Contador!
Stage Report: Alberto Contador wants a Vuelta stage win and today's murderous finish on the summit of Los Machucos was the perfect place. Contador attacked the GC group at the base of the climb causing panic behind, but the man from Pinto could not catch Stefan Denifl before the line.

Stefan Denifl gave Aqua Blue Sport their big win

Aqua Blue Sport's Stefan Denifl had been part of the 'break of the day' and when they hit the final climb the Austrian was the last man standing after dropping his last companion, Movistar's Dani Moreno. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) rode away from the leaders group and powered his way up the sheer face of the final climb to come within 28 seconds of the stage win he so wants. Behind; the GC men split with the red jersey of Chris Froome in a little trouble, but he had four teammates to guide him home and save his overall lead. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Inur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) along with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) headed the chase to take back 42 seconds.

Ex-rider and Vuelta technical director, Fernando Escartín described stage 16 like this: "Mountain. Castille will bid farewell to the peloton with a simple start to the stage, followed by almost 3,000 meters of slopes. The spectacular descent from La Lunada, that will lead straight onto the Alisas mountain pass, and the final climb up the infernal Los Machucos slopes will really test the peloton's strength." The riders would be cursing Escartín by the end of the day.

The break of the day

Only 162 riders started stage 17 as Lennard Kämna (Sunweb) and Daniel Oss (BMC) were non-starters. After a fast start the break managed to form at the 13 kilometer mark. It included Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott), Dani Moreno (Movistar) and Stefan Denifl of the ProContinental Aqua Blue Sport team. 15 kilometers later Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) and King of the Mountains leader, Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) joined them. The six worked well together and had a maximum lead of 9:15 after 70 kilometers of racing.

Astana were very active for Lopez

Astana and Bora-Hansgrohe decided to up the pace in the peloton and by the portillo de Lunada the gap was down to 5 minutes as the cloud descended and wet conditions his the race. On the descent the visibility was down to 10 meters in places which caused Davide Villella problems and he was distanced from the leading group. Bahrain-Merida pit the pressure on the bunch, bringing the lead down further to 3 minutes. But the speed had Rafal Majka in trouble in a rear split.

A dry start ended in low cloud

With four of his Bora teammates to help, Majka got back at the bottom of the penultimate climb. Orica-Scott attacked on the puerto de Alisas with Esteban Chaves and Adam Yates going for a long effort, some other riders tried to join them, but the Sky team came back to the fore and held the chase together. Jack Haig (Orica-Scott) joined his teammate, Cort Nielsen, but their attempt failed.

Alberto Contador gave it 'Full Gas' up the final climb, but came up 28 seconds short

Stefan Denifl and Dani Moreno pushed hard on the final brutal slopes of the alto de Los Machucos to drop all the others of the breakaway. On the steep, rough concrete Denifl was to strong for Moreno and pushed on to solo to the biggest win for the Aqua Blue team.

Chris Froome lost time, but is still in charge

Alberto Contador and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked from the favorites group, then on one of the steeper sections, Contador went on his own to try to catch Denifl, but came short by 28 seconds. Chris Froome (Sky) couldn't react when Lopez and Contador accelerated and was also unable to follow Vincenzo Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin, who caught Lopez and were joined by Majka. Lopez, Nibali, Majka and Zakarin finished ahead of Froome by 42 seconds.

Aqua Blue Sport's Stefan Denifl won a... Basket!

Stage 17 winner, Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) said after his win: "I had super super legs today. I waited all La Vuelta for that day. I paced myself until today and I went all in. It's just amazing for the team, for Aqua Blue. It's our first Grand Tour and we win a stage… I'm over the Moon! You always have to believe you'll win. When I felt my legs, I was like ‘oh my goods, this is super good'. And I just kept on pushing. The climb was perfect for me. There were bits of flat to recover. Now I've won a stage at La Vuelta… It's amazing. It's the best day of my cycling life."

Ultimo kilómetro / Last kilometer - Étape 17... por la_vuelta

Vuelta a España Stage 17 Result:
1. Stefan Denifl (Aut) Aqua Blue Sport in 4:48:52
2. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 0:28
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 1:04
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
6. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac at 1:13
8. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 1:17
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 1:19
10. David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 1:42
11. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
12. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott
13. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 1:46
14. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
15. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 1:53
16. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors at 2:01
17. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 2:04
18. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana
19. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 2:05
20. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2:14
21. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 2:16
22. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 2:32
23. Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar at 2:55
24. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC
25. Aldemar Reyes (Col) Manzana Postobon at 3:06.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 17:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 67:44:03
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 1:16
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 2:13
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 2:25
5. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 3:34
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 4:39
7. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac at 6:33
8. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 6:40
9. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 6:45
10. David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 10:10
11. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 10:13
12. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Scott at 10:46
13. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 11:20
14. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 13:03
15. Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Sky at 23:20
16. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 24:28
17. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 25:38
18. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 31:12
19. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 39:32
20. Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates at 43:48
21. Stef Clement (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 50:50
22. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott at 54:21
23. Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 58:33
24. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana at 59:00
25. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-Scott in 1:04:10.


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