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2017 Vuelta a España

STAGE 9: Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol

This stage is quite flat … until the uphill finale. The peloton will follow the Levante coast throughout the entire route. The departure will be a fast one, and a breakaway is very likely. But the day may result in teams fighting for a stage victory and not for the general classification.

La Vuelta: Froome powers to stage 9 win, extends GC lead

Chris Froome (Team Sky) powered to victory on stage 9 of the 2017 La Vuelta a España in Cumbre del Sol. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Chris Froome (Team Sky) accelerated to the win and extended his lead in the overall classification on Sunday in Cumbre de Sol at the 2017 La Vuelta a España. Esteban Chavez (Orica-Scott) finished second at four seconds and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) finished third, a further second behind Chavez.

The four-time Tour de France champion put in an acceleration with 500 meters to go, getting a gap and holding on to the finish, despite a late charge by Chavez and Woods.

Froome now leads Chaves by 36 seconds with Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) in third at just over a minute behind.

Top-10, Stage 9

1. Christopher Froome (Team Sky), in 04:07:13.
2. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-Scott), at 00:04.
3. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at 00:05.
4. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), at 00:08.
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at 00:08.
6. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), 00:12.
7. David De la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), 00:12.
8. Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb), at 00:12.
9. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing), at 00:14.
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at 00:14.

Top-10 overall

1. Christopher Froome (Team Sky), in 36:33:16.
2. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-Scott), at 00:36,
3. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing), at 01:05.
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), at 01:17.
5. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing), at 01:27.
6. David De la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors), at 01:30.
7. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at 01:33.
8. Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), at 01:52.
9. Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), at 01:55.
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), at 02:15.

“I put everything I had into that last couple of hundred meters,” Froome said after the stage. “I was determined that they weren’t going to catch me. I’m really, really happy to get the victory. The team did a brilliant job on that final climb and set such a good tempo.

“After a week we couldn’t have asked to be in a better position. It’s been a fantastic start to the Vuelta. The legs are feeling great. I’ve been to the Vuelta so many times, trying to target this race, and so far it feels like everything is going really well.

How it happened

The ninth stage of the 2017 La Vuelta a España was 174km (108.1mi) from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol. Sunny skies greeted the riders at the start, but an invisible dark cloud hovered over the Cannondal-Drapac team bus. The team announced on Saturday a sudden $7 million dollar budget shortfall for 2018, putting the team’s future in doubt. The scene around the bus was mayhem in Orihuela.

A 10-rider breakaway finally escaped the grasp of the peloton after 20km, but it was immediately apparent they were not likely to contest the stage win. Cannondale-Drapac sent all their riders to the front to control the gap. The four-kilometer climb to the finish seemed perfect for Woods.

“Today is another good finish for me,” Woods said at the start. “Yesterday I got too excited but today is a great opportunity for the team and myself. It’s a steep finish, short climb, which is perfect for me, and I think we’re really gonna put it all on the line.

“We had some bad news on the team yesterday so I think we need a boost and we’re gonna race like champions today. You lose sleep over the staff and everyone that could be out of a job next year. It’s not good news at all especially because I was really looking forward to racing with the team next year. But I think the team is rallying around each other. Obviously the team isn’t done yet. JV (Jonathan Vaughters) is working on everything. It’s not a done deal by any stretch of imagination and we still have a shot at existing next year. Everyone on the team is keen on focusing on results so we can prove that we belong in the World Tour.”

The leaders gained a maximum advantage of over three-minutes, as Cannondale-Drapac kept them on a short leash. The American-based squad received help from UAE Emirates in setting the tempo at the front of the peloton.

With 48km to go, the riders tackled the Alto de Puig Llorenca finishing climb for the first time. The climb was rated only a cat. 2 the first time up compared with being ranked a cat. 1 on the way to the finish. The climb was 800-meters shorter the first time, as the riders turned off before the finish line.

The breakaway shattered on the climb with Marc Soler (Movistar) and Tobias Ludvigsson( FDJ) emerging as the leaders.

It was gruppo compacto with 6km remaining in the stage, as Cannondale-Drapac continued to drive to the peloton.

Coming into the final climb, the team in green had been swarmed off the front, as Team Sky, Orica-Scott, BMC Racing and a host of other teams fought to put their GC men in prime position to stage the climb.

Bardet made his move with 3.5km to go with Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) marking him. Meanwhile, Nieve took up the pace-making in the now select group of GC favorites.

Nieve brought everyone back into the fold under the flamme rouge and soon swung off, his job for the day done.

David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) went to the front, but soon Froome made his move. He ferociously attacked his rivals with 500 meters remaining, shattering the group as everyone scrambled to follow. Chaves and Woods were the best of the rest in trying to chase down the Briton.

Chaves would get to the wheel of Froome, but as soon as he did so, the Sky rider attacked again. The Colombian was left suffering to the line, as Froome punched the sky, clearly elated to win the stage.

Chaves held on for second, four seconds back with Woods following right after. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) captured fourth and fifth on the stage, with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) just behind.

“He looked back and I say again he is really an unbelievable rider,” Chaves said after the stage. “You can see why he has won the Tour de France four times. For me it is a really good result actually, a few years ago I arrive 15 or 30 seconds (back) on this climb, but today it’s a different story.

“I think I am more mature, more experienced…more calm and this is the important (thing). We keep the second place in the GC, we put time on the other guys so it’s really good.”

The top-3 on the general classification remained unchanged, though now Froome had extended his advantage over everyone. He leads Chaves by 36 seconds with Nicolas Roche at 1:05 behind.

On Monday the riders will get a much needed rest day after a tough opening nine days of racing. La Vuelta gets back to racing on Tuesday with a 164.8km (102.4mi) jaunt from Caravaca Año Jubilar to ElPozo Alimentación.