Sander Armee won stage 18 of the Vuelta with an attack from the breakaway on the final kick up to the finish, distancing Lutsenko with 500m to go to take the win.
Chris Froome extended his lead over Vincenzo Nibali on the uphill finish on the Cat3 Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liebana to prove he wasn’t finished in the race yet after losing almost 1′ to Nibali on Stage 17.
The stage profile wasn’t one that would have pointed to a GC battle, especially with the climb of the Angliru summit finish still to come on stage 20, but the final kick up at the end provided the opportunity Froome – and Armee – needed to attack.
The day’s break took more than an hour of racing and covered the first 60km before it was formed, but when it did go clear it contained 20 riders including Armee, along with several riders who have won stages already in this Vuelta including Matteo Trentin and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step), Matej Mohoric (UAE) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).
The other 15 riders in the break were Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott), Nelson Oliveira and Marc Soler (Movistar), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Clément Chevrier and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Toms Skujins (Cannondale-Drapac), Antwan Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo), Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), Jérémy Maison and Anthony Roux (FDJ), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), and Aldemar Reyes (Manzana-Postobón).
Despite the late formation the break were still allowed to get lead of more than 13′ by the time they reached the first climb of the day at 103km – the Cat3 Collada de Carmona. Team Sky were more than happy to let them go and contest the stage win, which they would do with plenty of time to spare.
The gap remained stable around 13′ as they went over and down the Carmona and they were still working well together on the Cat3 Collada de Ozalba, with the cohesion finally coming apart as they began the climb of the Cat2 Collada de la Hoz with an advantage of just under 10′.
As the break started the climb of the Hoz, the peloton were still on the ascent of the Ozalba and an attack from Contador took Aru, Woods and Leon Sanchez (Astana) with him. This group were able to go clear but Aru’s pace eventually dropped his companions on the climb and he continued on alone.
Gougeard and Armee put a fast pace on the breakaway on the Hoz climb which fractured the group and saw them go clear, with Alaphilippe, Soler and Lutsenko joining them as they went over the summit. The riders were able to maintain their advantage over the chasers on the descent but the pace had dropped Gougeard and Soler as Armee, Alaphilippe and Lutsenko began the final climb as a leading trio.
Armee was the least favoured of the three and worked hard to force a strong pace on the early stages of the climb which saw Alaphilippe finally succumb to his fatigue leaving just Sander and Alaphilippe to contest the stage win.
Aru was still in no mans land between the breakaway and the peloton and had managed to gain a minute as Team Sky were no concerned with his attack, Aru starting the day more than 6′ down on Froome.
Armee continued to attack Lutsenko until the Kazakh rider eventually cracked with around 500m to go, leaving Armee to solo away to the finish for his first professional victory.
In the peloton the pace was kept high by Team Sky going into the final km, with Aru’s lead cut to less than 30″ as he hit the flamme rouge. Team Sky controlled the peloton into the final 800m where Froome accelerated, catching Nibali off guard with only Contador, Woods, Zakarin and Kelderman able to follow him with Kruisjwijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) following shortly after.
Froome continued to attack right to the finish, managing to distance all of the riders who went with him on his initial attack.
Vuelta a Espana 2017 Stage 18: Suances>Santo Toribio de Liebana (169km)
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal – Bel)||4:09:39″|
|2||Alexey Lutsenko (Astana – Kaz)||+31″|
|3||Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+46″|
|4||Alexis Gougeard (AG2R – Fra)||+1’02”|
|5||Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar – Spa)||+1’06”|
|6||Alessandro De Marchi (BMC – Ita)||+1’19”|
|7||Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step – Ita)||+1’21”|
|8||Sergio Pardilla (Caja-Rural – Spa)||s.t.|
|9||Antwan Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo – Ned)||+1’38”|
|10||Anthony Roux (FDJ – Fra)||+1’42”|
Vuelta a Espana 2017: General Classification
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||72:03:50″|
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+1’37″|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb – Ned)||+2’17″|
|4||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin – Rus)||+2’29”|
|5||Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo – Spa)||+3’34”|
|6||Miguel Lopez (Astana – Col)||+5’16”|
|7||Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac – Can)||+6’33″|
|8||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||+6’33″|
|9||Wout Poels (Team Sky – Ned)||+6’47″|
|10||Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo – Ned)||+10’26”|