The heat will accompany the peloton during a brutal stage with a final climb up La Pandera (HC). The accumulated exhaustion, three additional categorized climbs, and high temperatures could hinder a breakaway win, depending on everyone’s interests regarding the general classification.
Majka wins from day-long breakaway, Froome maintains GC lead
Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was victorious on Saturday at the 2017 La Vuelta a España atop the hors catégorie climb to Sierra de La Pandera. The Polish rider made the early breakaway and was the only one to hold off the GC contenders.
Miguel Ángel López (Astana) finished second at 27 seconds with Vincenzo Nibal (Bahrain-Merida) leading home a host of other GC contenders, including race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), a few seconds after.
Esteban Chavez (Orica-Scott) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) both lost contact with the others in the final kilometer.
“I feel great, really,” Majka said after the stage. “I don’t have problems like in the Tour, where I crashed. I came here for the GC and I got sick. I almost went home. I’m so happy. Not because I win, but for my teammates. They did a very good job. The team trusted in me and I’m happy to get the win today. I was pretty confident.
“I have really good legs and actually my teammate Patrick Konrad has done a great job for me. When I saw [Rui] Costa suffering, I went in the first position. I needed to go 10km full gas, as a time trial. Now, I am so happy, but this is very long. Everybody knows how hard the last week of La Vuelta is. Now I know I have the legs and the motivation. I will try for another one.”
Top-10 Stage 14
1. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), in 4:42:10.
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), at +00:27.
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +00:31.
4. Chris Froome (Team Sky), at +00:31.
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), at +00:31.
6. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at +0:31.
7. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), at +0:37.
8. Wouter Poels (Team Sky), at +0:46.
9. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), at +0:57.
10. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at +01:03.
Top-10 GC after Stage 14
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky), in 58:30:47.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +00:55.
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at +02:17.
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at +02:25.
5. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), at +02:39.
6. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at +03:09.
7. David De la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), at +03:11.
8. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), at +03:19.
9. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at +03:23.
10. Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team), at +03:48.
“I think it was, actually, a fantastic stage for us,” Majka added. “The guys didn’t panic when the big attacks came from Chaves, Nibali and Contador. We didn’t panic. We stayed together, paced really well and I think we can be pretty happy with what we did today. It was a dangerous day. We had real fireworks in a stage like this in the past, but I think we managed today really well.
“Given that we have two back-to-back really hard days and tomorrow is the last one before the rest days, with even a harder finish than today, today we ride with tomorrow in mind. The guys saved a bit the legs today. We didn’t do too much work because other teams came to ride and we had things under control. Tomorrow is a massive day even it’s shorter, so we expect some fireworks.”
The 14th stage of the 2017 La Vuelta a España traveled 175km (108.7mi) from Écija to atop the hors catégorie climb in Sierra de La Pandera. La Vuelta last finished in Sierra de La Pandera, the highest point of the Sur de Jaén Mountain Range, in 2009. The winner that year was Damiano Cunego.
The day’s breakaway consisted of 10 riders. Rafal Majka and Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Simon Clarke, Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) and Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobon) escaped 26 kilometers into the stage.
Villella entered the day leading the KOM classification by 14 points and extended his advantage when he crossed the top of the cat. 3 Puerto El Mojón in first position with 90km remaining. The breakaway held an advantage of over seven minutes at this point.
Before the brutal climb to the finish, the riders of the 2017 La Vuelta tackled the cat. 2 Puerto Locubin, which peaked with around 20km to go. Konrad attacked his breakaway companions on the lower slopes of the climb and his move shattered the group. Majka, Villella, Costa, and De Clercq were the only ones able to follow and the five leaders crested the climb with a two-minute advantage. Villella further extended his lead in the KOM classification by crossing the summit first.
In the peloton on the Puerto Locubin, Katusha-Alpecin took control and set a blistering pace. The tempo greatly thinned the peloton, but none of the GC contenders lost contact. Marc Soler (Movistar) attacked out of the peloton near the summit, but was brought back in the run-in to the final climb.
Villella was dropped from the leaders at the bottom of the final climb, while Quick-Step Floors took over the pace making in the peloton to set-up David de la Cruz. Soon Majka was on his own in the lead, as none of the leaders could keep up with the pace of the Polish rider.
Astana was controlling the peloton with 6km remaining, but their leader, Fabio Aru, was seen suffering at the back of the select group of GC contenders. It appeared Astana was riding in support of López.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked with 4km to go and was immediately marked by Richard Carapaz of Movistar. This attack drew out the contenders for the overall title, as Chavez, Contador and Nibali all jumped out of the Team Sky led group. Froome didn’t react and opted to follow the wheel of his teammate Wout Poels.
Nibali continued to surge and Contador was the only one able to follow. Poels swung off with about 2km to go and Froome swiftly brought back Nibali and Contador with Kelderman, Zakarin, Chavez, and López on his wheel.
On a slight downhill with 1.5km left for the GC contenders, López attacked and none of the others followed. Majka continued to slog along alone with his advantage hovering around the one-minute mark.
Majka survived a long day in the lead to win atop Sierra de La Pandera. López finished second and was able to gain a few seconds on the other GC contenders. Nibali finished third to capture a few bonus seconds to reduce his deficit in the general classification to 55-seconds to Froome.
Chavez was the biggest loser on the day, getting dropped in the final kilometer and falling from third to fifth overall.
More brutal climbs await in Sunday’s short and steep 129km (80.1mi) stage from Alcala la Real to Sierra Nevada with another hors catégorie climb to the finish.