This mid-mountain route is all about the uphill finale. It is a classic Vuelta finish and a new test for the leaders. The last climb, with slopes of inclinations over 20 percent, will not make much of a difference to the general classification, but it will add up to the gaps already obtained in Andorra and in the Ermita de Santa Lucía.
Stage 8: Alaphilippe wins, Froome extends lead
XORRET DE CATI, Spain (AFP) — France’s Julian Alaphilippe claimed an explosive eighth stage of the Vuelta a España as Chris Froome left his rivals behind to extend his overall race lead.
Quick-Step’s Alaphilippe was part of an early breakaway group of 21 riders and held on to out-sprint Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Stage 8, top 10
1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST), in 4h37:55.
2. Jan Polanc (SLO/EAU), at 0:02.
3. Rafal Majka (POL/BOR) 0:02.
4. Serge Pauwels (BEL/DDT) 0:26.
5. Nelson Oliveira (POR/MOV) 0:28.
6. Michel Kreder (/ABS) 0:32.
7. Maxime Monfort (BEL/LOT) 0:32.
8. Bart De Clercq (BEL/LOT) 0:34.
9. Alberto Losada (ESP/KAT) 0:37.
10. Emanuel Buchmann (GER/BOR) 1:04.
1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky), in 32h26:13.
2. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI), at 0:28.
3. Nicolas Roche (IRL/BMC) 0:41.
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 0:53.
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:58.
6. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 1:06.
7. David De la Cruz (ESP/QST) 1:08.
8. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) 1:18.
9. Michael Woods (CAN/CAN) 1:41.
10. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 1:57.
Froome showed he remains the man to beat overall as the Briton aims to become just the third man to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year.
The Sky rider left all of his general classification rivals, bar Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), trailing on the category 1 climb up Xorret de Cati before a short descent to the finish line to extend his lead over Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) to 28 seconds.
“I certainly didn’t need to attack but I am good to take advantage of it whilst my legs are feeling good,” a confident Froome told Spanish TV station Teledeporte.
“The most important thing for me was to try and keep pushing trying to open up the time gaps and we’ll see where we are after fist rest day.”
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (BMC) remains third overall, a further 13 seconds back.
Italian duo Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Fabio Aru (Astana) were in the group alongside Chaves, 17 seconds behind Froome, to fall 53 seconds and 1 minute, 6 seconds behind the race lead respectively.
Despite a return to form in the past few days, three-time Vuelta winner Contador remains over three minutes behind in his final race before retirement after a poor start.
Froome was once again put in the perfect position by his Sky teammates as they pushed the pace to prevent the breakaway.
“I know I say it every day but again a massive thank you to my teammates,” added Froome.
“The guys need a break but they have been so strong and it’s thanks to them I’m still in the red jersey.”
While Froome put time into his rivals, Alaphilippe sealed Quick-Step’s third stage win of the race and the biggest of his career to date.
“I didn’t think I would win this stage today,” said the Frenchman.
“For me it’s been a little bit complicated for two or three stages, I didn’t feel so good, but I think it’s the same for everybody.
“We’ve had a great start with the team, from the beginning of the race we are always in the front.”
Sunday’s stage 9 contains another category 1 climb to the finish of the 174km ride from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol.