After stage 11’s big summit finish, the general classification riders should allow a breakaway. The ascent of the Puerto del León (Cat. 1) and the Puerto del Torcal (Cat. 2, 17km from the finish), will wear the riders down. There shouldn’t be any surprises, despite a total of 2,300 meters of climbing in this stage.
Stage 12: Contador courageous, Froome falters
Although Tomasz Marczynski took his second Vuelta win in stage 12, Thursday’s stage was dominated by GC drama as Alberto Contador attacked to gain time and Chris Froome crashed twice. Dimension Data’s Omar Fraile ended up second to Marczynski, looking frustrated at the finish. Movistar’s JJ Rojas was third on the day.
“I’m doing okay, thankfully,” said Froome. “Of course I don’t like to give away time but I’m grateful it’s 20 seconds not one minute.”
Trek-Segafredo’s Contador attacked on the final categorized climb, with more than 20km to race, and picked up 22 seconds in the overall. Froome suffered a mechanical and a crash on the descent off of that Cat. 2 climb. He ceded 20 seconds to most GC favorites at the end of the 160.1km race. Second-place Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) closed his gap to 59 seconds. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) ended the day third overall, 2:13 behind.
Stage 12, top 10
1. Tomasz Marczynski (POL/LOT), in 3h56:45.
2. Omar Fraile (ESP/DDT) à 0:52.
3. José Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) 0:52.
4. Pawel Poljanski (POL/BOR) 0:52.
5. Stef Clement (NED/LNL) 0:52.
6. Brendan Canty (AUS/CAN) 1:42.
7. Anthony Perez (FRA/COF) 2:50.
8. Jan Polanc (SLO/EAU) 2:50.
9. Andreas Schillinger (GER/BOR) 2:50.
10. David Arroyo (ESP/CJR) 3:00.
1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky) 49h22:53.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) à 0:59.
3. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 2:13.
4. David De la Cruz (ESP/QST) 2:16.
5. Wilco Kelderman (NED/SUN) 2:17.
6. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 2:18.
7. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 2:37.
8. Michael Woods (CAN/CAN) 2:41.
9. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 3:13.
10. Miguel Ángel López (COL/AST) 3:51.
After making the day’s 14-rider break, Marczynski attacked the Cat. 2 climb late in the stage. He soon had a 46-second lead with 20km to go.
“I was a bit afraid because at the beginning I spent a lot. There was again a big fight to make the breakaway,” Marczynski said.
“I said, ‘Today can again be my day.’ I felt good already from the beginning. I was climbing easy.”
Five men chased the Polish leader over the top: Fraile, Rojas, Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac), Stef Clement (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The Lotto-Soudal rider had a one-minute lead over the top of the climb. He got an unexpected boost on the descent. First, Canty crashed on the descent’s first sharp right-hand bend. Then, Poljanski dropped out of the group with a flat tire.
In the GC group behind, Contador launched an attack early on the final categorized climb. BMC’s Nicolas Roche followed, but he was dropped after just about a kilometer of climbing.
“[Contador was] impressive,” said Froome. “Of course, Alberto’s known for taking the race on and never giving up. I think he’s living up to that.”
Edward Theuns waited for Contador at top of final climb. The strong classics rider quickly went to work for his team leader, driving the pace on the wide-open descent.
Team Sky was bringing Contador back, but disaster struck moments after the summit.
Early on the descent, Froome crashed and needed to take a spare bike. Only moments later he slid out again on a right-hand corner while trying to weave through the team cars.
“I just slipped. I lost my front wheel in a corner — same for the second one,” Froome said. “Just really dry, slippery corners. I just lost my front wheel.”
Wout Poels and Mikel Nieve dropped back to help their team leader. They helped him minimize his time losses, but the trio couldn’t catch the group of GC favorites.
“I’m just grateful. They were fantastic, Mikel, Wout,” said Froome. “They helped me all the way to the finish. they helped me limit my losses.”
Nibali encouraged the others to work cooperatively in an effort to gap Froome but also keep Contador on a short leash.
Eventually, Theuns was spent with about 2km to go, leaving Contador to his own devices. The Spaniard remained ninth overall after the stage, but with his time gains, was 3:13 behind Froome ahead of Friday’s stage 13.
On the next day, Froome will have a chance to recover with a flat, 198.4km race to Tomares.