JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images
Stefan Denifl was victorious on Stage 17 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday, but it was a difficult day for overall leader Chris Froome, who lost significant time.
The Aqua Blue rider resisted a late challenge from Alberto Contador to take victory in a thrilling finish, with Froome suffering after a gruelling day in testing conditions.
The final result of Stage 17 is provided by La Vuelta’s official Twitter account:
La Vuelta @lavuelta
1. Stefan Denifl 4:48:52
2. Alberto Contador + 0:28
3. Miguel Ángel López + 1:04
4. Vincenzo Nibali + 1:04
5. Ilnur Zakarin + 1:04 https://t.co/uNHlwUYX9b
The day saw the field experience testing conditions on a demanding stage that runs from Villadiego to Los Machucos. Cyclingnews.com offered a plan of the route:
Vuelta a Espana 2017: Stage 17 preview
Villadiego to Los Machucos. Monumento Vaca Pasiega, 180.5km
Ahead of the start, there was confirmation that Lennard Kamna, who finished eighth in yesterday’s time trial, had been withdrawn from the Vuelta due to injury:
Team Sunweb @TeamSunweb
Knee discomfort forces @lennardkaemna to leave #LV2017 after stage 16.
➡️ https://t.co/dCa0dC5RvH https://t.co/I3wpSMaYXa
Early attacks were expected, but a strong headwind prevented any clear breaks in the opening stages until Denifl, Alessandro De Marchi, Daniel Moreno and Magnus Cort managed to surge clear.
Cannondale-Drapac’s Davide Villella attempted to bridge the gap and was helped out by Julian Alaphilippe, eventually joining the leaders almost five minutes ahead of the peloton.
Team Sky, meanwhile, continued to lead the peloton although the gap continued to grow, standing at over nine minutes until Astana and then Bora-Hansgrohe began to chase with more urgency.
Astana’s pursuit began to have an impact, with the gap to the six leaders reduced to a little over five minutes with 85 kilometres remaining as they headed towards the Category 2 Portillo de Lunada climb.
With the gap reducing, Villella attempted to inject some more pace into the leaders, with rain starting to fall and the race reaching low cloud, ensuring visibility was low and conditions difficult, as shown by Eurosport UK:
Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK
Riders faced treacherous conditions on Stage 17
WATCH: https://t.co/ERVvwjSLow #LV2017 https://t.co/ARkKtT2gNn
The descent saw the leading group split up, with Villella distanced and Moreno, De Marchi, Denifl, Alaphilippe and Cort leading the main peloton by just over three minutes.
A thrilling finish then ensued, with Denifl going alone on a really gruelling final climb and Contador setting off in pursuit, much to the delight of the crowd scattered along the route.
Meanwhile, Froome was finding it tough going, helped out by Mikel Nieve but clearly struggling. The nature of the climb was highlighted by Cycling Weekly:
Cycling Weekly @cyclingweekly
Today’s Vuelta a España stage finishes on an incredible 31% climb, and these photos show just how tough it is | https://t.co/P8H3eaM9Tr https://t.co/anLF3SEbjk
Contador did his best to reel in Denifl, but despite his best efforts, it was the Austrian who claimed the glory, while Froome was back in 14th and his overall lead cut to one minute, 16 seconds.
It was a damaging day for the Englishman, and there could be more drama to come, according to The Telegraph‘s cycling correspondent Tom Carey:
Tom Cary @tomcary_tel
Could there still be a twist in this Vuelta? Froome loses time to Nibali on brutal final climb to Los Machucos
Despite having conceded 42 seconds to his main rival Vincenzo Nibalil, Froome does retain the advantage, but today will have given the Italian hope as the race moves into the final four stages.