Rafal Majka won stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana in a tense finish on the Alto Sierra de la Pandera, managing to stay away alone for most of the climb to take the win.
Majka was able to stay at the head of the race alone, with the GC members attacking each other behind eating into his lead as he made his way to the finish.
The biggest loser in the GC was Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) who dropped from third to fifth overall after attacking early on the climb and running out of steam as the other GC riders attacked later on. Chaves lost a furth 26″ to Froome but more importantly conceded time to podium rivals Kelderman and Zakarin who both moved above him in the GC.
The stage was all about the final climb of the Pandera, although there were two categorised climbs beforehand to warm up the climbers for the finale. The Cat3 Puerto del Mojon at 85km and the Cat2 Alto de Valdepenas at 153km – the latter just 22km before the final climb with a descent that led straight onto the Pandera.
The day’s break went after around 20km and included along with Majka: Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Simon Clarke, Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Rui Costa (UAE), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) and Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobon).
Team Sky were happy with the makeup of the break and let it get an advantage of more than 5′, with Davide Villella taking the mountain points at both of the early climbs to extent his lead in the mountain classification.
With 80km left Team Sky were joined by Astana and Bahrain-Merida at the head of the peloton but the gap was only coming down gradually, being knocked back to 4’30” at 50km to go, although it was the hardest 50km of the stage. The addition of Katusha to the chase caused the break to reduce further with their advantage just 3′ going into the last 30km with the two big climbs looming.
With the start of the Alto de Valdepenas came an attack from Konrad who succeeded in dropping several breakaway riders on the steep first few km, leaving just himself, Majka, Costa, De Clerq and Villella ahead of the race. The five riders continued up the climb with little impetus for an attack with the peloton now less than 2′ behind as Villella took the points at the top, the peloton coming through 1’55” behind them.
The break kept their lead for most of the descent but as they wound their way up the extremely steep town roads of Valdepenas De Lerq and Villella had to drop back. This kick right at the start of the climb put many riders in the peloton to the sword with riders dropping off the back with Team Sky setting a high pace right from the start.
Konrad put on a fierce pace for Majka with Costa hanging onto the pair until Konrad dropped back with Costa following not too long after, leaving Majka alone out front with 10km to go and an advantage of 1’20” on the peloton and 40″ on Costa.
Majka maintained his gap up the climb as the attacks came from the peloton with Bardet (AG2R) being the first to go taking Carapaza (Movistar) with him. The pair unwittingly acted as a foil for Esteban Chaves who jumped over the join them, which prompted a response from Contador and Nibali.
The addition of the GC rivals forced a response from Team Sky who had to use all of their domestiques to bring Froome back up to the group, with the red jersey himself taking up the chase and bringing the Nibali group back as Bardet and Chaves dropped back.
With 3km to go Majka had just 1’08” on the peloton, the attacks and counter attacks reducing his lead drastically. The catching of Contador and Nibli by Froome and Lopez (Astana) saw a reduction in pace which allowed Chaves, Kelderman and Zakarin all to get back in touch with the red jersey group. This served to help Majka who was able to hold the lead at around 1′,
When Kelderman attacked from the GC group with 2km to go he was quickly brought back by Lopez, who counter attacked and got away from the GC group, setting off in pursuit of Majka to try and steal the stage.
Majka took 30″ into the flamme rouge over Lopez with the GC group at 54″, which he managed to maintain to the finish with Lopez taking second and Nibali claiming third, taking 4 bonus seconds to reduce his deficit to Froome.
Vuelta a Espana 2017 Stage 14: Ecija>Sierra de Lan Pandera 175km
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe – Pol)||4:42:10″|
|2||Miguel Lopez (Astana – Col)||+27″|
|3||Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+31″|
|4||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||s.t.|
|5||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin – Rus)||s.t.|
|6||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb – Ned)||s.t.|
|7||Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo – Spa)||+37″|
|8||Wout Poels (Team Sky – Ned)||+46″|
|9||Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott – Col)||+57″|
|10||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||+1’03”|
Vuelta a Espana 2017: General Classification
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||58:30:47″|
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida – Ita)||+55″|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb – Ned)||+2’17″|
|4||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin – Rus)||+2’25”|
|5||Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott – Col)||+2’39”|
|6||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||+3’09”|
|7||David De La Cruz (Quick-Step – Spa)||+3’11″|
|8||Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo – Spa)||+3’19″|
|9||Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac – Can)||+3’23″|
|10||Miguel Lopez (Astana – Col)||+3’48”|