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  5. 2017 Vuelta a España, stage 5

2017 Vuelta a España

STAGE 5: Benicàssim to Alcossebre

This is a mid-moutain stage with an uphill finale. The terrain will be a “leg-breaker” from the beginning. The climbs will not be excessively difficult, but they will wear down the peloton so that the first uphill finish at the Ermita de Santa Lucía, will be a spectacular one. It will be a battle to the end and the category 2 climb at Serratella will be a decisive one, though differences among the strongest riders should be minimal.

Lutsenko wins Vuelta's stage 5 atop Alcossebre

Lutsenko tastes victory (and his thumb) during the Vuelta’s 5th stage. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

ALCOSSEBRE, Spain (VN) — Kazakh rider Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won his first career Grand Tour stage atop the steep Ermita Santa Lucia climb, holding off a late charge by Merhawdi Kudus (Dimension Data) in the waning kilometers of the race’s fifth stage. Lutsenko was part of a 16-man breakaway that spent much of the day off the front of the peloton.

“This is the most important win of my career,” Lutsenko said after the race. “Today it happened finally.”

Top 10, stage 5

1. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ/AST), in 4h24:58.
2. Merhawi Kudus (ERI/DDT), at 0:42.
3. Marc Soler (ESP/MOV) 0:56.
4. Matej Mohoric (SLO/EAU) 1:11.
5. Alexis Gougeard (FRA/ALM) 1:24.
6. Marco Haller (AUT/KAT) 1:37.
7. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 1:40.
8. Jetse Bol (NED/MZN) 2:04.
9. Matvei Mamykin (RUS/KAT) 2:18.
10. Jérémy Maison (FRA/FDJ) 2:31.

Top-10 overall

1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky), in 18h07:10.
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC), at 0:10.
3. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:11.
4. Nicolas Roche (IRL/BMC) 0:13.
5. David De la Cruz (ESP/QST) 0:23.
6. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 0:36.
7. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:49.
8. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) 0:50.
9. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 1:09.
10. Michael Woods (CAN/CAN) 1:13.

Behind, race leader Chris Froome attacked the group of favorites and further distanced himself from rivals Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Vincnezo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) on the steep climb. Froome was unable to drop Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), who shadowed the race leader alongside Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac).

Froome now leads van Garderen by 10 seconds in the overall, with Chaves in third, 11 seconds in arrears.

The Vuelta’s fifth stage featured a hilly profile punctuated by five categorized climbs, including the steep 3km finish to Alcossebre. The final climb had ramps that surpassed 20 percent, and a twisting route that allowed for plenty of opportunities to attack.

Lutsenko rode in the day’s breakaway, which at one point had more than 5 minutes on the peloton. Austrian rider Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin) attacked out of the group on the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto de la Serratella, and carved out a small gap with 45km to go.

Lutsenko eventually bridged across to Haller, and the duo was chased by a five-man group containing Kudus, Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Marc Soler (Movistar), Matej Mohoric (UAE Emirates), and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors).

As the duo hit the steep slopes of the final climb, Lutsenko simply rode away from Haller, chugging his way to the finish. Behind, Kudus attacked away from Gougeard and mounted a valiant chase, but came up short on the punchy climb.

The win is a huge step forward for Lutsenko, who has challenged for Grand Tour victories in the past but has always come up short. Lutsenko crashed hard during stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France, and continued on with bandages for the remainder of the race. When the race entered the Alps, Lutsenko rode aggressively, riding off the front during the 18th stage to the Col d’Izoard. A late-stage surge by the GC contenders eventually swallowed him up inside the waning kilometers.

“I’ve been close before, second, third, but I could never manage to win,” Lutsekno said. “I crashed at the Tour and I worked hard to try to recover as best I could. I worked hard at home, surrounded by my family, and I wanted to come to this Vuelta to prepare for the worlds. Now I have a victory, and I am very happy.”

Behind the breakaway, Froome’s Team Sky controlled the peloton for much of the day. As the group sped to the final climb, Sky’s Gianni Moscon surged to the front of the field, tapping out a furious tempo up the short but painful climb. Moscon’s efforts dropped Bardet and Nibali, and brought Froome to the front of the diminished group. After Moscon pulled to the side, Froome made several surges on the front, with only Chaves, Woods, and Contador able to follow.

“I can be happy with that result today, and the work my teammates did,” Froome said. “I am really glad to have come through, after the Tour, to be in the kind of shape I am in this Vuelta.”