This is another short mountain stage, but very tough. The Vuelta winner may be determined at the Alto de l’Angliru, as was the case in 2011 between Bradley Wiggins and Juanjo Cobo. It is the last big stage, and the riders will give it their all, so we are in for a good show.
La Vuelta: 'El Pistolero' hits the bullseye one last time
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) conquered the final mountain of his career and won Saturday atop the brutally steep Alto de L’Angliru on the penultimate day of the 2017 La Vuelta a España. The Team Sky duo of Wout Poels and Chris Froome finished second and third on the stage with Froome sealing his first La Vuelta overall title.
Contador crossed the line and brought out the firing pistol victory salute one last time. He attacked on the descent off the penultimate climb and powered up L’Angliru for the victory. With the time bonuses he gained for the stage, he looks set to finish fourth overall in the final race of his career.
Top 10, stage 20
1. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), in 03:31:33.
2. Wouter Poels (Team Sky), at +00:17.
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky), at +00:17.
4. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at +00:35.
5. Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), at +00:51.
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +00:51.
7. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), at +00:51.
8. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +01:11.
9. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), at +01:25.
10. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at +01:36.
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky), in 79:23:37.
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at +02:15.
3. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at +02:51.
4. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), at +03:11.
5. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at +03:15.
6. Wout Poels (Team Sky), at +06:45.
7. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at +08:16.
8. Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team), at +08:59.
9. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), at +11:04.
10. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), at +15:36.
“There could be no better ending than this,” said an emotional Contador. “This morning I was clear that this was my day, that I had to say goodbye in this way. There has been no better moment or place than this to say goodbye.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) cracked on L’Angliru and was unable to make a challenge to Froome’s lead in the overall classification. He managed to limit the damage and still hold onto his runner-up slot in the GC. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) began the day third overall, but would finish the day falling to fifth.
Barring disaster, Froome will ride into Madrid on Sunday and take home his first La Vuelta title. He leads Nibali by 2:15 and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) had a great ride to pull himself onto the podium in third. The Russian trails Froome by 2:51.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Froome said. “The team has just been incredible over the last few months. It’s meant so much to me, the way they have supported us. I owe a massive thank you to all my teammates.
“I have to say that is probably the toughest Grand Tour I’ve ever ridden. There was something different happening every day. I’ve had good days and then I’ve been lying on the ground, bleeding, thinking my race might be over. It’s been a rollercoaster – absolutely relentless. It’s a relief now to finish and to be getting to Madrid. I think it probably is my greatest achievement, being the first person to win the Tour de France and then go on to win the Vuelta.”
The riders stepped off their team buses Saturday morning in Corvera de Asturias for the penultimate stage of the 2017 Vuelta a España to dark and rainy skies. A brutally hard day awaited the riders with two cat. 1 climbs preceding the Alto de l’Angliru. The stage was only 117km (72.7mi) long, but there were sure to be fireworks with Contador tackling the final climb of his career.
“It’s a very hard day but I’m happy,” Contador said at the start. “I can’t ask for more: everywhere I go I feel the public’s support. It’s a day like this where everything can happen. I’d love to win, but many people are going after the victory and it’s difficult, and it will also be a hard day for the GC fight. We’ll see how it goes, I’m motivated because these are my last km as a professional rider.”
An 18-rider breakaway formed in the opening hour and contained many excellent climbers. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and both of the Yates brothers, Adam and Simon, were present. However, Trek-Segafredo kept the breakaway to a gap of under two minutes. They wanted to give Contador a chance to win the stage atop L’Angliru.
Off the top of the penultimate climb, the Alto del Cordal, the breakaway had split to pieces and GC riders were on the attack. Chaos ensued on the wet roads with Nibali, David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) and Marc Soler (Movistar) all hitting the ground on the descent.
Contador made a move on the descent and began L’Angliru on the attack with teammate Jarlison Pantano and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors). He quickly put over 40 seconds into Froome and the other contenders. Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal), an original member of the breakaway, led the race.
Team Sky was calm despite Contador creating fireworks at the front of the race. Froome still had five Team Sky teammates surrounding him as the GC contenders group hit the final climb.
The steepness of the final climb whittled out the riders to the elite climbers in the world of cycling. The climb was made ever harder with dense fog, wet roads, and crazy fans.
While Contador secured the stage win and the perfect ending to his career, the battle for the podium was fierce. Nibali showed promise early in the climb by sending his Bahrain-Merida teammates to the front, but “The Shark” lost his bite on Saturday and was unable to put pressure on Froome in the fight for red.
Zakarin dug deep to stay with Poels and Froome, as the others faded. His suffering would pay off, as he climbed to third overall. He should ride into Madrid on Sunday and secure his first grand tour podium placing.
The final stage of the 2017 La Vuelta on Sunday travels 117km (72.7mi) from Arroyomolinos to Madrid. Should everything go accordingly, Froome will be crowned champion of the 72nd edition of the race.