JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images
Miguel Angel Lopez was victorious on Stage 15 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana on Sunday, as Chris Froome maintained his grip on the red jersey.
The distance and huge climb to the finish line in Sierra Nevada challenged the field in what’s considered the toughest stage of the Spanish tour.
Team Sky did a magnificent job of pushing Froome to the end, driving the British superstar to a high cadence in the final kilometres.
Cycling Hub TV provided the stage result and latest general classification:
TOP 14 – Stage 15 #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/RbiZP9nTJX
Top 10 GC after stage 15 #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/xieNlhX6t9
Froome entered the stage with a 55-second advantage over Vincenzo Nibali in the general classification, and the Tour de France champion was fully aware of the climbing ahead at the start in Alcala la Real.
CyclingNews.com provided details of the stage with a punishing finale:
Vuelta a Espana 2017: Stage 15 #LV2017
Alcalá la Real – Sierra Nevada. Alto Hoya de la Mora. Monachil, 129.4km
The peloton set off at a quick pace as the GC riders positioned themselves with their teams, and the searing heat of the day did not deter the riders.
As the climbing kicked in with 61 kilometres remaining, Peter Stetina was joined by Adam Yates and Romain Bardet in a minor breakaway. Stephane Rossetto of Cofidis then took control on his own at the front, as the GC contenders sat a couple of minutes off the pace.
Nibali was struggling in the saddle at the rear of the peloton, fighting to stay in touch as the race slowly stretched out.
Team Sky took control of the main pack as the primary climbing started with 28 kilometres remaining, but it was Sander Armee who stole the initiative as he searched for a stage win. Armee maintained a one-minute lead over Yates as the gradients increased, but it was Alberto Contador and Lopez who made an attack.
The pair quickly passed Armee, but Yates upped his speed to grab the lead, putting distance between himself and the red jersey group.
JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images
Nibali finally made a move with 12 kilometres to go, and Team Sky and Froome increased their tempo in response.
At the front, Yates continued to lead, and the clock was favouring him as the inclines reduced in size at high altitude. Nibali led a group of four as they slowly closed the gap on the leader, but the peloton was intent on making its way back to Yates.
Lopez made a final and decisive attack on Yates and sliced down his lead to just 10 seconds with four kilometres remaining. Yates’ challenge collapsed as fatigue took hold of him, and Team Sky decided it was time to push for the finish line.
The move protected Froome as the Brit demanded the increase in cadence, and Lopez went clear on his own as his form peaked.
Lopez could not be stopped as he appeared to grow in strength as the finish line approached, and Froome rolled in with an increased GC lead over Nibali.