Migeul Lopez won his second stage of the 2017 Vuelta with an attack on the final climb, gaining more time on Froome and his GC rivals.
The attack from Lopez was fierce and proved him a force to be reckoned with as he hoovered up the breakaway riders and looked strong all the way to the finish, doing enough to move up into sixth place on the GC.
Chris Froome was able to ride to the finish without a major attack from Nibali, his closest rival, although the Italian did attempt to get away with 13km to go although nobody went with him and it was little effort for Team Sky to pace themselves into the catch.
Similar to Stage 14, this stage was designed to be about the final climb to the Alto Hoya de la Mora with the short length of 129.5km making it one that the organiser will hope to see plenty of GC fireworks on.
There were two Cat1 climbs to tackle before the final HC climb to the Mora though, with the Alto de Hazallanas at 74km and the Alto del Purche at 109km. The Purche was particularly brutal with no descending once the climb was complete, just a short flat section before the climbing started again to the finish.
It took 37km for the day’s break to form with several attempts of all shapes and sizes trying to go clear in the fast start to the stage. The group contained green jersey Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step) who was there to contest the intermediate sprint in Granada after 45km. It also included Stephane Rossetto, Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Tom Van Asbroeck (Cannondale-Drapac) and Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal).
The break was allowed a lead of 2’50” as Trentin won the sprint points uncontested in Granada and the eight riders continued to build their lead with the peloton keeping the advantage short behind.
With 70km remaining the breakaway hit the foot of the Hazallanas with the peloton 2’13” behind and were working well together, but the peloton was increasing the pace as Astana committed a rider to the chase to contribute to Team Sky’s pace setting.
As they hit the 18% gradient section though the breakaway blew to pieces, leaving Rossetto alone at the head of the race with 1’50” on the peloton which has also seen Bahrain-Merida join in the chasing with Astana and Team Sky.
Armee was able to move up to Rossetto and the pair were able to work together as the peloton hit the same slopes which prompted an attack from Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) who were able to move clear of the peloton.
With 2km to go to the top of the climb Armee was able to drop Rossetto and continue on alone with a lead of 2’25” on the peloton. Stetina dropped back to the peloton whilst Yates and Bardet were joined by Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and the trio caught Oliveira from the break as their deficit to Armee was 1’05”.
Armee led over the top with 1’20” on the Bardet group and 3’10” on the peloton which was now being controlled mainly by Astana with delegates from Team Sky and Bahrain-Merida playing a smaller role.
On the descent Rossetto was able to bridge back up to the Bardet group as they saw the gap to Armee drop to just 45″, but the new addition didn’t last long and was dropped along with Oliveira as Yates, Bardet and Kruisjwijk continued to pursuit of Armee, their gap dropping to just 26″ as the final climb approached.
The Bardet group caught Armee on the early slopes of the climb as Astana were reducing the gap significantly, the deficit coming down to just under 1′ by the time Armee was caught. As the pace was whittling down the size of the peloton there was an attack from Contador, taking Lopez with him and going clear of the peloton.
In the break Bardet and Yates dropped Armee and Kruijswijk, going clear themselves before Yates put in an acceleration that distanced Bardet leaving him alone at the head of the race.
Contador and Lopez were able to get in touch with Bardet with a 50″ deficit on Yates who was increasing his advantage to 1’35” on the reduced peloton.
With 16km left Yates still had an advantage of more than 1′ on the chasing group which saw Lopez doing most of the chasing. His gap to the peloton was going out and with 14km left to race it had gone out to more than 2′ as the British rider looked to take the stage win.
With 10km to go Yates still had 1’14” on the chasing group of Contador, Bardet, Kruijswijk and Lopez with the Team Sky led red jersey group at 2’10”.
Lopez was still the rider doing the lion’s share of the chasing as Yates started to show signs of fatigue, his lead quickly diminishing thanks to the pace put on by the Astana rider leading the chase.
The pace had also served to drop all of his chasing companions leaving Lopez alone to pursue Yates and with 5km to go the Colombian was just 27″ on Yates who was visibly tiring.
With just over 4km to go Lopez caught Yates, who initially was able to hold his wheel but after just a few hundred metres cracked completely, almost coming to a standstill on the climb.
At the head of the peloton Wout Poels had taken over for Team Sky and was setting such a high pace that none of the GC were able to attack until Zakarin went with 1.3km to go and opened an advantage on the GC group.
With it clear that Lopez was going to win the stage – his advantage still more than 30″ going into the final km – Zakarin’s attack was to try and preserve his losses with Lopez a threat to his podium.
He was successful in his endeavor coming second on the stage, with Wilco Kelderman finishing in 4th to take the bonus seconds and keep Lopez a little further back with Chaves as a cushion in fifth.
Vuelta a Espana 2017 Stage 15: Alcala la Real>Sierra Nevada 129.5km
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Miguel Lopez (Astana – Col)||3:34:51″|
|2||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin – Rus)||+36″|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb – Ned)||+45″|
|4||Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott – Col)||+47″|
|5||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||s.t.|
|6||Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac – Can)||+50″|
|7||Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+53″|
|8||Wout Poels (Team Sky – Ned)||s.t.|
|9||Louis Meintjes (UAE – RSA)||s.t.|
|10||Pelle Billbao (Astana – Spa)||+1’02”|
Vuelta a Espana 2017: General Classification
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||62:06:25″|
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+1’01″|
|3||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin – Rus)||+2’08″|
|4||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb – Ned)||+2’11”|
|5||Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott – Col)||+2’39”|
|6||Miguel Lopez (Astana – Col)||+2’51”|
|7||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||+3’24″|
|8||Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac – Can)||+3’26″|
|9||Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo – Spa)||+3’59″|
|10||Wout Poels (Team Sky – Ned)||+5’22”|