Stage Report: Canada’s Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) mastered the cruel cloud covered climb to the Balcón de Bizkaia for the Vuelta stage 17 win ahead of Dylan Teuns (BMC) and David De La Cruz (Sky). Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) took a little time from overall leader, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), but Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost any chance of winning this Tour of Spain.
Michael Woods appeared through the mist for the stage win
The dreaded climb of the Alto del Balcon de Bizkaia launched Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) across the finish line for a well fought for win on Wednesday. The Canadian ‘ex runner’ went with the early break and was too strong for climbers like Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) on the final ramps of up to 24%. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was the strongest of the GC contenders, gaining 8 seconds on Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who retains the red jersey. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost a minute and dropped out of the top 5. Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) moved into 3rd overall as Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) both lost time.
Simon Yates lost a little time, but still looks strong
Stage 17 from Getxo to Balcón de Bizkaia:
Getxo is a landmark destination for surfing aficionados. Its beaches, its cliffs and its pliable waves welcome thousands of tourists every year who come from all over the world to practice this sport. La Vuelta will depart from here for the first time and will, no doubt, visit the Bizkaia Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. The Getxo Circuit, the locality’s most distinguished cycling trial, will celebrate its 73rd edition in 2018, as will La Vuelta. Few territories can compete with the Basque Country’s passion for cycling: thousands of fans line the roads, a solid quarry of riders, and a privileged orography provide the local touch. This year, the prize for cycling lovers comes in the form of an unprecedented La Vuelta climb: the Balcón de Vizcaya, jewel of the village of Berriz, in Mount Oiz.
Fernando Escartín: Unprecedented finalé, with a very “Vuelta” profile. The riders must overcome over 3,000 meters of inclination, with an explosive finish-line in Mount Oiz and slopes of up to 17% and 18%.
The start from the Basque port of Getxo
All the local riders wanted to be in the break of the day
After a big battle to get in the breakaway from the local Basque riders, eventually the escape formed on the Alto de la Arboleda after 15 kilometers, including 21 rider: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alexandre Geniez (AG2R-La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi and Dylan Teuns (BMC), Rafal Majka and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Dimension Data), Simon Clarke and Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), David De La Cruz and Jonathan Castroviejo (Sky), Jai Hindley (Sunweb), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Cristian Rodriguez and Hector Saez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jesus Herrada and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis).
The break wanted to stay away to the finish
The stage winner would come from one of these three – Woods, Teuns and Majka
They had opened a gap of 2:30 after 35 km and five more joined them as the race approached the last 100km: Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), Pieter Serry (Quick-Step Floors), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Jose Mendes (Burgos-BH). At the summit of the Alto de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (85km) their lead was 8 minutes with Simon Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott team pulling the bunch. The local team, Euskadi-Murias, upped the tempo in the last 60km and the gap came down to 5:18 at the summit of the Balcon de Bizkaia for the first time with 36 kilometers to to go. Thomas De Gendt took the KOM points and the jersey from Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis).
The Yates brother set the tempo on the climb
Enric Mas caused the damage in the last meters
The attackers still had a 3 minute lead at the bottom of the final climb, more than enough to battle it out for the stage victory on slopes up to 24%. Rafal Majka, Michael Woods, Dylan Teuns and David de la Cruz were together for the final kilometer, where the Canadian went for a very strong effort to open a gap and then hold the others off to the line.
Second on the stage for Dylan Teuns
The ‘Old Fox’ Valverde now at 25 seconds to Yates
In the GC group, Astana set a very hard pace, dropping Nairo Quintana (Movistar) with 3km to go. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) set the pace for his brother, until Enric Mas (Quick.Step Floors) accelerated in the final kilometer taking Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) with him. The Spanish pair took 8 seconds from Simon Yates, who now lead by 25 seconds on Valverde. Enric Mas moved up to 3rd place ahead of Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) dropped out of the top 5, losing 1:04 on Valverde.
Nairo Quintana couldn’t hold the GC men
Not a good day for Fabio Aru
A txapela for Michael Woods
• Note: Canadian readers can watch the Vuelta LIVE with a subscription at Flobikes.com
Vuelta a España Stage 17 Result:
1. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale in 4:09:48
2. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC at 0:05
3. David De La Cruz (Spa) Sky at 0:10
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:13
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:38
6. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC at 0:44
7. Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data at 0:48
8. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:51
9. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb at 0:55
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 1:48
11. Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis
12. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 1:51
13. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Sky at 1:57
14. Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 2:40
15. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
16. Hector Saez Benito (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 2:44
17. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 2:48
18. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 2:50
19. Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana at 2:52
20. Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 2:53
21. Adam Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 3:08
22. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 3:44
23. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
24. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 3:53
25. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 4:09.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 17:
1. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott in 69:05:34
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:25
3. Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 1:22
4. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 1:36
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:48
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2:11
7. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 4:09
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 4:36
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 5:31
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 6:05
11. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 6:33
12. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 9:15
13. David De La Cruz (Spa) Sky at 9:19
14. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 10:27
15. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 11:35
16. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scot at 14:40
17. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 17:31
18. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 22:00
19. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida at 25:20
20. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 26:28
21. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar at 26:44
22. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 31:34
23. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 31:42
24. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 37:08
25. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 37:37.