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  7. 2017 Vuelta a España, stage 15

2017 Vuelta a España

STAGE 15: Alcalá la Real to Sierra Nevada

This is a short stage with three key climbs: Hazallanas, Monachil, and the finish at Sierra Nevada (2,490 meters above sea-level). It’ll offer a total of 3,172 meters of climbing. Race organizers are aiming to recreate the magic of the 2016 race’s legendary stage from Sabiñánigo and Formigal.

 

La Vuelta: López conquers Sierra Nevada, Froome extends GC lead

Miguel Ángel López (Astana) won stage 15 of the 2017 La Vuelta a España. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

After finished second on Saturday, Miguel Ángel López (Astana) found his redemption by claiming victory on Sunday at the 2017 La Vuelta a España, as the stage finished atop the tough Alto Hoya de la Mora climb in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) claimed second on the stage over 30 seconds down with Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) leading home the other general classification contenders a further 10 seconds back.

“It was a magnificent day,” López said. “The team did a great job. I want to thank them, even for yesterday. When I went early with Contador, I had my doubts, because it was so far away. The last climb was very hard. It was very demanding, but I just kept pushing on. We were following team orders to help Fabio, but they gave me freedom to go with some early attacks. Things turned out great.”

Top-10 stage 15

1. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team), in 3:34:51.
2. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at +00:36.
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at +00:45.
4. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), at +00:47.
5. Chris Froome (Team Sky), at +00:47.
6. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at +00:50.
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +00:53.
8. Wout Poels (Team Sky), at +00:53.
9. Louis Meintjes (UAE Emirates), at +00:53.
10. Pello Bilbao (Astana Pro Team), at +01:02.

Top-10 GC after stage 15

1. Chris Froome (Team Sky), in 62:06:25.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +01:01.
3. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at +02:08.
4. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at +02:11.
5. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), at +02:39.
6. Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team), at +02:51.
7. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at +03:24.
8. Michael Wooeds (Cannondale-Drapa), at +03:26.
9. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), at +03:59.
10. Wout Poels (Team Sky), at +05:22.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) went all-in on the long and hard finishing climb by attacking from the bottom. He would only be caught near the summit, but would pay for his efforts and finish nearly a minute and a half down on the stage winner, who had in fact attacked alongside him.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) was able to gap Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in the run to the line and push his advantage in the general classification to 1:01. Zakarin was able to leapfrog Kelderman to move into third overall, 2:08 behind.

“It’s an amazing feeling to finish off today and to lead three competitions, the red (overall), the green (points), the white (combined) and to have survived a stage like today,” Froome said at the finish. “I can’t thank my teammates enough. First of all, there was the attack from [Alberto] Contador and [Miguel Ángel] López. When they went, that was really the danger moment for us to try and control things. My teammates were incredible. I feel incredible. If anyone had told me this would be the situation going into the second rest day, I’d have definitely taken it. I’m very happy with that and now I’m looking forward to the time-trial.”

The 2017 La Vuelta a España stayed in the high mountains on Sunday for stage 15, starting in the town of Alcalá la Real. At 129.4km (80.4mi), the stage was short, but it was sure to disrupt the general classification. The riders would have to tackle two cat. 1 climbs before the conquering the hors catégorie Alto Hoya de la Mora to the finish.

Every team seemed to want to be represented in the breakaway, as it took over 40km for the escape to establish itself. The racing was fast and intense, and when the racing finally slowed, an eight-rider group had formed out front. The leaders covered 51km in the first hour of racing.

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Matteo Trentin (Quick Step), Tom Van Asbroeck (Cannoondale-Drapac), Sander Armée (Lotto-Soudal), Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Anthony Perez and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) were the leaders.

The first climb of the day, the Alto de Hazallanas (16.3km at 5.5%) began 55km into the stage and saw many teams come to the fore in the peloton. Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) attacked in support of Contador and drew out Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Stetina would not be able to keep pace with the other three though.

Armée was the lone survivor of the original breakaway over the top with the Bardet group not far behind. Bardet and company would catch Armée early on the second climb and immediately leave him behind.

The final two climbs of the day were essentially one long 28km drag up to the finish at Sierra Nevada. Only a less than kilometer descent separated the two climbs. Yates dropped Bardet and Kruijswijk with 25km remaining while Contador appeared to go for broke at this year’s La Vuelta, attacking out of the peloton nearly from the start of the climb. He was marked by Saturday’s sensation López.

With 20km remaining, Yates crested the top of penultimate climb, and began the brief descent with a 1:14 advantage over Contador and López. The duo had also picked up Bardet. Kruijswijk was stuck in no-man’s land between Yates and the Contador group. The greatly thinned peloton containing the rest of the GC favorites crested the climb another 30 seconds behind.

Nibali was the first to attack out of the chase group with 13km to go, as the Contador group reeled in Kruijswijk. Team Sky didn’t panic on the front of the peloton with Mikel Nieve and Wout Poels leading Froome. They calmly brought Nibali back over a few kilometers, but the Italian also appeared to ease off with his attack possibly coming a bit too early.

López showed he had great legs for the second day in a row, by attacking out of the chase group with 6km to go. Contador and Bardet teamed-up in pursuit, as Kruijswijk disappeared out the back. The gap to the lone leader, Yates, had shrunk to under a minute.

The young Colombian climber on Team Astana caught Yates with 4km to go and immediately accelerated past. Yates tried to follow, but it was to no avail. The Briton nearly came to a standstill on the road, as his legs gave way. Meanwhile, Froome and the rest of the GC favorites picked up Contador and Bardet.

Zakarin attacked with 2km to go with López holding an advantage of just under a minute. His attack caused a stir in the favorites group, which saw Contador going out the back.

López took an emphatic stage win in Sierra Nevada with Zakarin crossing the line in second, 36 seconds behind. Kelderman led the other GC favorites across the line. Contador paid for his audacious attack and finished the stage 1:27 behind the winner.

“I did my best,” Yates, one of the main protagonists on the stage, said. “I can’t be disappointed with that. It’s a rest day tomorrow, so rest up and try again in two days. I slowed down a little bit because I knew [Lopez] would pass me with me. I tried my best, maybe it was a little bit early when I attacked. I gave it a shot, it didn’t work out today, but in the future it will.”

On Monday the riders of the 2017 La Vuelta will enjoy the second rest day of this year’s race, but a tough final week of climbing awaits them. Tuesday is the “race of truth,” a rolling 40.2km (25mi) individual time trial.