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”After the Tour de France I just came here to just get a good feeling back, to show that I was not as bad as on the Tour and wanted to win a stage in a grand tour. To achieve it now is just really nice."

Photo: IAM Cycling

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
07.09.2016 @ 22:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mathias Frank continued the memorable grand tour season for IAM by taking the fourth stage win for the Swiss team on the tough stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana. Having made it into a 28-rider breakaway, he attacked before the brutally steep Alto Mas de la Costa and then held off the late comebacks from Leopold König (Sky) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) to take the first grand tour stage win of his career. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Chris Froome (Sky), Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) finished together and so Quintana retained the lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Mathias Frank: I wanted to show that I was not as bad as in the Tour

Mathias Frank took a solo victory at the top of the Alto Mas de la Costa to finish off the 17th stage of the Vuelta. This marks his first win after two years without taking the bouquet, and also represents his first stage win at a grand tour.

 

“When I crossed the line, I said to myself that this is a dream come true,” Mathias Frank explained with a voice full of emotion.  “I have not had an amazing season. I missed out completely on my two main objectives when I had to abandon both the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. My ambition coming into the Vuelta was to win a stage. Now I have accomplished this mission. I feel at peace and it’s an incredible feeling.”

 

“I never imagined that the race scenario would unfold so perfectly.  When I attacked from the break along with Dario Cataldo (Astana) 30km from the finish, quite honestly, I did not believe we’d make it. And I refused to believe until I was safe across the line,” Frank continued. “I fought hard like always. I was afraid that the chase group would catch back up. Then I realized I had won…it was magical.”

 

”It’s a big satisfaction, I had been trying hard, coming close a couple of times but I finally made it, it’s really awesome. I had not won a race for two years, it was about time.  In the end it’s super nice to win.

 

”After the Tour de France I just came here to just get a good feeling back, to show that I was not as bad as on the Tour and wanted to win a stage in a grand tour. To achieve it now is just really nice.

 

”I can only say that we were always aggressive, always in the breakaways, we won some stages in every grand tour this year. We showed what this team is capable of. It’s a shame for everybody that it is folding.

 

”Quintana is the strongest, he seems to be the freshest of the GC guys and he’s got a strong team as well. It will be pretty hard for Froome and the others to take the red jersey from him. If it goes according to plan for him he is going to win it even if there are still some hard stages and a time trial.

 

”I will be joining forces with Romain Bardet [at Ag2r in 2017], one of the big names of the peloton, I will help him. I also want to set my sights on smaller races and maybe go for GC on the Vuelta.

 

 

“Mathias Frank managed his race like a metronome,” directeur sportif Eddy Seingeur said after the finish. “The effort he produced at the end, very few riders would be able to accomplish that. He’s a great champion. I tip my hat to him.”

 

Surrounded by two teammates, Marcel Wyss and Clément Chevrier, in the break, Mathias Frank was able to get a real foothold before flying to victory.

 

“Marcel and Clement were able to cover various attacks throughout the day. This was a great help for Mathias,” Seingeur confided. “On account of the fact that we had several riders in the main breakaway, we were able to control the race at the front. And we did it brilliantly.”

 

The two teammates and good friends Frank and Wyss enthusiastically hugged each other at the top of the Alto Mas de la Costa. It was a hug full of gratitude, sincerity, and emotion.

 

Eclipsing the team record from 2014 and its 18 victories, Mathias Frank's win at the Vuelta today brings the IAM Cycling total to 19 for the year, and most importantly, the fourth grand tour stage for 2016.

 

Disappointed Leopold König takes full responsibility for ’big mistake’

Leopold Konig climbed to second on stage 17 at the Vuelta a Espana having spent the day in the break.

 

Konig was unable to catch winner Mathias Frank (IAM), who had stolen away from the break ahead of the final climb, but he came tantalisingly close, finishing just six seconds down.

 

Down the mountain the GC battle was as fierce as expected, with the top four overall - Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Chris Froome, Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) - duking it out on the four kilometre first category Alto Mas de la Costa. 

 

Initially distanced, Froome battled back to the trio as the rest of the peloton was left behind and then hung in there as Chaves upped the pace at the front of the foursome, riding his own tempo in trademark fashion.

 

He never gave up and was able to close in on the trio on the super steep final 200 metres, even crossing the line ahead of Chaves and Quintana to stay second overall, 3:37 down on the Movistar man.

 

Speaking after the stage, a downbeat Konig expressed his disappointment that he couldn't quite get the job done.

 

He said: "I planned to win it, but I made a big mistake. I take full responsibility for that. I didn't think he [Frank] was going to hold it, we've got them all the time at 10, 20 seconds, and I was ready to attack in the final, but Frank did a really strong ride in the end. My mistake and it's cost me a stage win in the Vuelta.

 

"We were talking about the climb before the stage, with the heat and the heavy gradients, that maybe guys would overdo it in the beginning, but that didn't happen with Frank! It's not been my Vuelta. I just tried to bounce back after the disappointment of stage 15, I didn't want to just give up and the team gave me the opportunity today. I'm really thankful and grateful for that.

 

“I felt really good and I wanted to win for sure but Mathias was really strong because to hold it from the break… chapeau. I am really disappointed. I wanted to win the stage or help Chris (Froome) if he needed me somewhere in the finale, of course I wanted to win. Sunday was just a bad day, it’s one of those moments when you can’t do anything, it goes so fast. It just happened.”

 

Once the 28 man break had formed it always seemed likely to stay away and, with Michal Golas for company, Konig looked to be one of the strongest men in there.

 

But Frank's opportunistic attack with Dario Cataldo (Astana) 29km out, although initially unthreatening, turned out to be decisive. At the foot of the final climb the pair had 30 seconds on the chasing bunch, and then Frank fought on alone.

 

Konig almost paced his pursuing effort to perfection, passing Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the final hundred metres, but he couldn't quite overhaul Frank.

 

Chris Froome: I won’t try any crazy tactics

Froome then came home 25th, 3:27 down on the stage winner, with lots of racing still to come in Spain.

 

After his tough ride up the final climb, Froome said he has his sights set on Friday's time trial.

 

He said: "It was another day for us to mark each other as GC contenders and see if anyone was having a bad day coming out of the rest day, but it looked like everyone was pretty alert today.

 

"From our side it's business as usual. Now that we're behind we're not necessarily going to be trying any crazy tactics to make up that time. We've certainly got a way of racing, an approach, and we're going to stick to that now and focus on the time trial.

 

"The legs felt alright. For me personally, I am thinking about the day after tomorrow, the time trial, but it was a pretty brutal climb; a typical Vuelta climb, with really steep ramps up there. For me it was about pacing and trying to ride within myself, while also keeping an eye on the main contenders.

 

"I've definitely got a different approach to most guys, I do try not to let it affect me when I see my rivals riding away and distancing me. I think a lot of people do get disheartened in that sort of position, maybe that is a strength I do have, I try to keep motivated and try to keep pacing myself."

 

Robert Gesink: Honestly, I had expected more

Robert Gesink of Team LottoNL-Jumbo fought up the Vuelta a España's stage 17 steep finishing climb to place third today. Gesink was with his team-mate Bram Tankink in a leading group, and only Frank (IAM) and König (Sky) were better on the Camins del Penygolosa in Llucena. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains in the lead.

 

"It was another good day for us, we fought and took opportunities in the final. Then you aim for the highest possible and I think today, it was the third place for Robert Gesink," said Sports Director Jan Boven.

 

"In the beginning, there were a lot of attacks. As a team, we had several riders to jump and if one was caught, the other went. Gesink was riding attentive and aggressively to get into the break, he was in almost every escape. Eventually, he escaped with Bram Tankink."

 

Before the final climb, several riders tried to escape and Tankink closed the gaps. Cataldo (Astana) and Frank escaped with 30 kilometres to go, but stayed within reach. On the final climb, Gesink could still overtake Cataldo but König and Frank were just too strong.

 

Jan Boven had a good look road book.

 

"In addition to the stage to Covadonga, where Gesink was second, and the stage to the Aubisque that Gesink won, this also was a stage where we knew there was a possibility for a good result. It's good that Gesink succeed again to get in the leading group.

 

"On Saturday, we want to go again for the highest possible place. That final climb should also suit Gesink, and let's hope that he can go in the front group again."

 

"If you had told me two months ago that I would be third in a mountain stage in La Vuelta, I would be very happy. After my stage win and my second place, I know what the strength of the other riders are, and it is a pity to miss this chance.

"I am happy with the work Tankink did for me, he completely gave everything for me and it went according to plan. Frank and Cataldo escaped but it remained under control. Unfortunately, Frank was the strongest, I chased König a couple of times down but they came back and I rode on. I prefer a constant style ascent instead of this climb.

 

 “Today I’d hoped for a bit more to be honest. I knew Frank and Konig were strong riders, they had a good chance of beating me. I went to check the parcours yesterday and I thought it was made for me. Maybe I would have won with more luck. Frank had a good advantage at the bottom but Konig also beat me. In the end I’m happy.


"This Saturday I'll have another chance, I was once third on that climb, I will do everything to try it again.

 

George Bennett retained his 12th place in the overall standings. The New Zealander of Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished 38th, 1-17 minutes behind the leader in the overall standings, Nairo Quintana.

 

Bilbao: This was the best feeling I have had in the Vuelta

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA started out the third and final week of Vuelta a España with a strong performance on the steep uphill finish on stage 17. Pello Bilbao and Jaime Rosón were both part of a big breakaway, which managed to keep the peloton at bay and fight for the win. Bilbao put in a great effort on the grueling final climb to finish fourth, while Rosón took 22nd place.
 
At the sign-in this morning, Bilbao was already very optimistic about today’s hard and very hot stage to Alto Mas de la Costa. He wanted to be part of the break and the 26-year-old Spaniard didn’t disappoint.
 
On the final 30 km, the riders up front started to attack in order to get a gap before reaching the final ascent. Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) were successful in distancing their breakaway companions on the flat run-in but as the steep slopes began, the gap quickly decreased and Frank went solo.
 
Bilbao was the first rider to attack in the chase group and he was later joined by a handful of strong climbers. However, despite a fierce chase on the final kilometers, Frank managed to hold off his rivals and solo to victory, while Bilbao crossed the line just 14 seconds down.
 
Rosón finished the day on the podium as the most combative rider, meaning he will wear the red bib number on tomorrow’s stage to Gandía, which is expected to end in a bunch sprint. Sergio Pardilla is still the team’s best-placed rider in the general classification in 13th place with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) leading overall.
 
Pello Bilbao said: 

 

“Today, I had the best legs I have had during the whole Vuelta. As we started on the final climb, I wanted to be well-positioned in order to set my own pace. I went to the front but later they caught me. However, I kept my rhythm without ever giving up and at the end, I was very close to the first riders. I’m happy that I have managed to turn things around after two difficult weeks due to my early crashes.

 

“I had a clear idea of who the favourites were in the break and I tried to be in their wheel al the bottom of the climb. I didn’t stop believing. At the end, I could catch some riders, but it was a pity not to be with the best three riders. During all the Vuelta I’ve been trying to stay highly motivated even if my body isn’t at its best.”

 
Jaime Rosón said: 

 

“To be honest, I’m very satisfied with this performance. My goal for this Vuelta was to be in two breakaways and I have managed to do that now. Furthermore, both days I have been on the podium afterwards. Today, I tried to work for Pello but on the final climb, I couldn’t do more. This is only my first year as professional. I’m sure that great things will happen next year”.

 

Cataldo: I did everything possible

"I did everything possible and I’m happy with my performance,” said Dario Cataldo after he finished fifth at the top of Camins del Penygolosa.

 

"When the stage winner Mathias Frank and I attacked, I was hoping that someone else would catch us before the last climb in order to gain more time on our chasers.”

 

"Dario was very good to get into the break and it was a pity that it was in the company of high-level climbers. It was a good race also for Michele Scarponi who has kept pace with the best riders and gained overall,” commented sport director Dmitri Sedoun -

 

Nairo Quintana: I just had to defend myself

In terms of the overall fight, the 17th stage of the Vuelta a España - a 177.5km journey between Castellón and the Cat-1 Mas de la Costa climb in Llucena - was, fortunately for Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), a balanced contest. The man from Cómbita crossed the finish together with Froome (SKY), Chaves (OBE) and Contador (TNK), despite the intense pace through the grueling, 3.8km ascent to the finish including several pace changes from all three of them. Quintana, always well supported by the six team-mates not making part of the early break - Imanol Erviti and José Herrada got into a 28-man move building a 7-minute gap which Mathias Frank (IAM) profited from to win the stage, Herrada in 6th spot - had no troubles to conserve his red jersey.

 

The controlling pace by Sutherland and Rojas - replaced at times by BMC and Orica, who drove the pace into the bottom of the climb - at the scorching hills of Castellón, with temperatures ramping up to 37ºC, was continued by Rojas, Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández on the ascent, the three securing a good position for Quintana before an equal duel against his GC rivals. The 3'37" gap between Quintana and Froome overall remains intact ahead of a day for sprinters and aventurers in Gandía (201km). In turn, Alejandro Valverde, who finished just next to Dani Moreno, a minute behind the top contenders, remains in Points green, with the same 7pt gap ahead of Quintana from prior to the rest day.

 

Nairo Quintana said: “I had checked today’s finish months ago [he recced the whole final week of racing back in January - ed.], and it seemed just as hard as it felt on my legs today. I was a bit nervous, because such short, steep, powerful finishes are always difficult for me. Fortunately, I’m in good shape and could keep the pace of my rivals.

 

“I climbed on a 36*29: it was perfect for today’s finish, one or two less teeth behind would have made it too hard. Ézaro, Camperona and this one are very different, require distinct pacing - Camperona was the hardest for me, even if I put time on my rivals.

 

“For what happened today, I didn’t really attack, rather than defending myself well, just as I hope to do for the remainder of the race. The feelings are good and my team has been on point again today. Let’s hope we can finish this off.

 

“It’s difficult to enjoy a stage like this. The rhythm was hard but my team were really strong, we defended well. We put two riders in the breakaway and the rest of the team took me safely to the final climb. I was looking after Froome and I defended well.

 

”I think that until the last day nothing will be won and there is still the time trial left. I’m in good condition. We’re quite well. The upcoming climbs are more suited to me, unlike today’s climb which was too steep for me.

 

"It was a very hard start, with lots of different breaks going and I had to get in all of them until I was sure that one had gone that didn't affect me overall. Then in the last climb, all I had to do was watch my rivals and defend myself.

 

"Contador attacked, Chaves went for it, and they've got a big fight going on for the podium. I was keeping an eye on Froome, and I got through the day.

 

"It will be real hand-to-hand fighting [in the time trial], my physical condition is there, and I just hope he doesn't gain too much time.

 

"Aitana is much more suited to my characteristics than this one and Movistar will put down a nice hard pace beforehand. If I don't have a good time trial, then I'll have a good opportunity on Aitana to strike back."

 

Alejandro Valverde: What more can you ask for?

Alejandro Valverde said:

 

“It was a pretty hard climb, especially after the high pace of the start of the stage and because the heat. But, to be honest, I think La Camperona is even harder. Here you can take a breath at some point. 36x29 was perfect for today. I came with the goal we are developing today. I came here to help Nairo (Quintana) win the red jersey and show how strong our team are. I’ve been good as well, I’m still wearing the green jersey.

 

I am well, we have the red jersey with Nairo and demonstrate the great team we are. At the moment we are fine. I have been in contention for several stage wins, have the green jersey - what else can we ask for?

 

“I think it will be difficult to keep the green jersey but it will stay at home. Nairo is just a few points behind and can take it. But if I get, it’s even better!”

 

Peraud: Seven years ago I would have enjoyed

Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was the fifth best GC rider. He said:

 

“I’m not a mountain bike rider anymore that’s the problem. Seven years ago I would have enjoyed it but today it was just suffering. I tried to keep up with the best before pacing myself. I’m not far from the best it’s good. The sensations are good, the rest day did me good.”

 

Maxime Monfort: This Vuelta has been a failure for me

After one hour in the race, Bart de Clercq and 27 other riders set up a breakaway. Bart de Clercq took an excellent eighth place on the Camins de Penyagolosa for Lotto Soudal.

 

His teammate Maxime Monfort said:

 

"I really have not had success. I was very careful to try to get in the break. I was in the good shot each time early on in a stage I know well. I was in a good group of 17 riders but it was not good for the peloton. 27 riders countered. Frankly, this Vuelta failed for me. On the rest day, I tried to stay focused but it was not easy. I'll try again tomorrow. "

 

Durasek in the top 10, sick Mario Costa abandons

Once again, there were the blue-fuchsia-green colors in the group of attackers: Kristijan Durasek was with the best until 1500m remained and finished 9th.
 

The blue-fuchsia-green team will be at the start of the 18th stage with 7 riders, because Mario Costa did not finish the stage due to a fever.

 

Haimar Zubeldia: The climb was too extreme for me

Haimar Zubeldia finished in 10th place on another tough summit finish at the Vuelta a Espana after joining the 27-rider breakaway that gained enough advantage to fight out the stage 17 win. La Vuelta tackled the Mas de la Costa for the first time, a four-kilometer ultra-steep climb with a 12.7% average grade, a brutal ending to the hilly 177.5-kilometer race. 

 

"It was a hard stage, it's always a different feeling after a rest day," explained Zubeldia, utterly exhausted after the race. "I tried only once, and I got in the breakaway, but I didn't feel good, I did not have good legs. I said to Popo (director Yaroslav Popovych) we are there, and so I must try.

 

"The last climb was a little bit extreme for me; I did not have much left at that point so by the top I was completely empty. I did my maximum, and that's it."

 

Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) attacked with one other 25 kilometers ahead of the Mas de la Costa, and was able to hold his slim lead over the brutal incline to win by a handful of seconds.

 

Zubeldia, already not a favorite of short climbs with double-digit gradients, and even less so when the legs are not in best form, rode with the breakaway as long as he could, then settled in to grind his way to a solid 10th place.

 

The top four rivals in the GC battle arrived together over three minutes later with no significant changes in the fight for the overall podium.

 

"We will do the same tomorrow," added Zubeldia. "It does not seem as hard as today because there is not an uphill finish, but I think more than 80% of the peloton wants to get in a breakaway, so we will see if some teams take responsibility for a sprint or not. But if a breakaway has more than 10 guys it may be difficult to bring it back. We will try and fight to the last day; our goal is to win a stage."

Julien Bernard, who crashed at the start of the race, was the second Trek-Segafredo rider to cross the line of the steep summit finish, and he talked his teamthrough his grueling day:

 

"It was a stupid crash. The start is always nervous and dangerous, and normally when there is something bad in the road everyone points it out, but no one did, and I put my wheel in a hole and crashed. I lost a lot of energy to come back to the peloton in the first climb: it was very hard, and since there were a lot of riders dropped, the commissaires made a barrage.

 

"At 50k before the last climb, BMC began to pull, and that made the final of the stage harder with all the up and downs. After my crash, I stayed a little bit too far back in the peloton, so I lost more energy. In the end, the legs were not too bad, but I tried to economize for tomorrow after missing out on the breakaway. I am a little disappointed about missing the breakaway as the final climb was good for me. But it's like this. I am okay from the crash, but it was a long and hard stage. Tomorrow is another day, and I try again."

 

Alberto Contador: Today they devil won

After a punishing final climb to the line of the Alto Mas de la Costa, the GC battle was nullified with the top four riders overall coming across the finish together, including Tinkoff’s leader Alberto Contador. Up the road, as part of the day’s successful breakaway, Michael Gogl raced to a respectable 13th place, another strong performance from the young neo-pro.

 

After the stage, Contador reflected on the day and the Vuelta so far:

 

"I am enjoying the race every day, as well as enjoying my home country and the fans. I am satisfied we didn't have a bad day where, perhaps, the main contenders were too vigilant of each other to make any big gaps.

 

“It is too early to draw conclusions on my form after today's final climb. I felt good throughout the stage. Maybe, the race was a bit calmer because the GC wasn't at stake. We will now focus on tomorrow and then the time trial, which will be tough, with hardly any flat parts over a very technical route.

 

“When the legs are good, this kind of climb makes you happy. If not, clearly you won’t be that happy. They are spectacular stages, people love this kind of finale, but it’s true that making time gaps here is difficult because there’s only one kilometre per hour of difference between riders.

 

“Yesterday I had doubts in my head. I did not know whether to follow the angel or the devil who tells me to attack. Today, the devil won, and let’s see what he tells me in the coming days. I believe things come to you and you can’t achieve nothing if you don’t go against the circumstances. I couldn’t be how I wanted neither here nor on the Tour, but I’m enjoying myself and my only objective is to keep enjoying.

 

"In Mas de la Costa, I saw that Froome was a little bit behind, so that's when I went for it, at the same time I could see what Chaves might be able to do.

 

"They came after me, and so did Nairo. In these kinds of really steep climbs, it's very difficult to get a gap.  To tell the truth, it's not been a bad day at all, my legs felt pretty good."

 

"I'm not thinking about going for a podium finish, I'm going to take things day by day and I'm not signing anything until I reach the final finish line. I'm going to fight for the maximum all the way through.

 

”The TT is complicated, very technical and I'll try to gain some time. Before I start thinking about Saturday and Aitana, I want to prepare the chrono as best I can."

 

“It started hard today and was fast, then in the middle we had two climbs which the guys did yesterday in training so they were well prepared,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh after the stage. “Nobody was in trouble. We tried hard to get Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov in the break but they were brought back. Then in the end Michael Gogl was in the right move and it was good to have someone up there if something was needed in the final. As it was, Alberto had good support from the other guys and then was up there with the best at the end. It was super hard with the gradients on the climb but he was looking good today.

 

“It was a nice result for Michael too, his second time in the break here. He’s doing very well for a neo professional. Tomorrow we’ll again be ready for anything. Everyday there’s something to look out for so the guys will again be careful.”

 

Pavel Kochetkov: With 2km to go, I knew it was over

It might have been a rest day yesterday but it was straight back to work on Wednesday’s stage 17 in the 71st Vuelta a España. Riders from Team KATUSHA were up for it with Pavel Kochetkov in the key break of the day to take 14th on the stage and Matvey Mamykin and Egor Silin not far behind.  The day's effort gave the fair play award to Pavel and team members were presented on the podium for yesterday's best team award.  They hold fourth place in the Team competition.

 

”At 2km from the finish I knew it was over.  It was too steep and my legs did not respond anymore.  It’s a pity but I missed a little something, perhaps because at the beginning of this Vuelta I was sick.  Before that last climb I was feeling good.  KATUSHA were again in front and every day we are able to do this is nice,”  said Pavel Kochetkov.

 

Kochetkov took fourteenth at 1:31.

 

“I tried again today, this time with Ben Hermans.  It was a challenge to attack on this steep climb, but then along came Contador.  But we will continue attacking,” said Matvey Mamykin.

 

Difficult climb for Sanchez, fatigued van Garderen abandons

BMC Racing Team raced aggressively on a tough stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana, where Samuel Sánchez now sits in seventh place on the General Classification with four stages to go.

 

Silvan Dillier made a 28-rider breakaway that went clear after the first hour of racing, and from which solo winner Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) claimed the stage win by holding off his breakaway companions and the peloton.

 

With the breakaway’s gap reaching six minutes Jempy Drucker spent a lot of the final 70km of racing at the front of the peloton to bring the gap down in order to protect BMC Racing Team’s lead in the team classification.

 

Ben Hermans showed his form by attacking on the final climb of the day, the incredibly steep Mas de la Costa, while Samuel Sánchez was unable to stay with the main General Classification contenders and lost some time and one place on the overall standings. Dillier was BMC Racing Team’s best-placed rider in 15th place on the stage.

 

Tejay van Garderen abandoned the Vuelta a Espana early in stage 17 due to fatigue, which leaves BMC Racing Team with seven riders in the race.

 

Ben Hermans said:

 

“Today my legs changed completely. Before the rest day I was tired like most of the guys but then racing is not fun anymore because you suffer all day. I could always stay in the front but I suffered so hard and today I just pedalled and I could steer my bike into the peloton where I wanted. I knew I had good legs so I gave it a go at the bottom of the climb to be in front of all of the accelerations of the favorites and it worked out perfectly I think. It was incredibly steep [in the last 2km] and I knew that with my weight I’m not the best climber there so I had to anticipate for Samuel Sanchez there in final. Finally, he wasn’t there in the end with the favorites but I think you can’t do so much on such a steep climb so we had to take our own chances.”

 

Sport director Valerio Piva said:

 

“It was a very tough start like every day in the Vuelta and it was also the day after a rest day which is every time a dangerous day. Finally, a big breakaway went away with Silvan Dillier but the only problem was that two guys from Movistar were also in there and for us it is important to not give them a lot of time because of the team classification. Then I asked Jempy Drucker to work to keep the gap not so big, not to close it but not to give too much time, and that is why Jempy and also Darwin Atapuma worked for that. We had the other guys with Samuel Sánchez to bring him to a good position on the climb and Ben Hermans was good and strong. Samuel was suffering a little like usual on the steep finish like this. He lost a position but the Vuelta is still two hard stages.

 

“The bad news is that we lost Tejay van Garderen today. He was not good at the start of the stage and he  

was dropped. He came to the Vuelta not with the best preparation but we hoped day by day he was better. I think it is due to fatigue and the rest day, which is every time a difficult day for him. That is racing and we need to stay concentrated on the next days for the goals that we can achieve.”

 

Kristian Sbaragli impresses on tough mountain stage

The first cat 2 climb started after only 12km of racing and so it meant Omar Fraile had a good opportunity to win back some points in the race for the King of the Mountains jersey. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were committed to helping Fraile in his quest and the African Team riders were really active even before reaching the climb. Merhawi Kudus and Jaco Venter were both part of the very early moves, keeping things in check before the road ramped upwards. Fraile benefited from his team mates work and took all 5 points on top of the climb. This brought the Basque climber to within 3 points of Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) who leads the competition.

 

Over the climb the race was strung out but no definitive break had gone clear yet. Kristian Sbaragli was attentive, riding in the first few places though and his good positioning would be to his benefit as 28 riders managed to gap the rest of the peloton. As Elissonde was not in the break, this was a good situation for the African Team as Sbaragli was representing the colours at the head of affairs. Sbaragli made his presence known in the break as he took maximum points on the two other categorized climbs before reaching the final climb of the day. Sbaragli, as a sprinter first and foremost, has been known to show a good pair of climbing legs but the final cat 1 climb was always going to be too difficult for the Italian.

 

Nevertheless, Sabargli still put in an attack just before the really steep gradient began at 3km to go, showing his fighting spirit. He was caught by the main chasers a little way down the road and would end up settling for 18th on the stage. The rest of the African Team riders all made it home in good time and look forward to finishing this final week of the Vuelta off strongly.

 

Kristian Sbaragli said:
 

“Today was one of the hard stages of the Vuelta. I found myself in the first group of 50 to 60 riders after the first climb with Omar. There were a few attacks and I followed some moves and made the final selection. The last 4km of the final climb had a really steep gradient and there were a lot of good climbers in the group.  I tried my best but obviously I was not able to fight for victory or the podium but that's okay. Hopefully tomorrow is a better stage for us. ”

 

Kenny Elissonde: I limited the damage

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) retained the Polka-Dot jersey:

 

“I tried and Fraile followed me, then he tried and I followed him, then I struggled in the first climb and he slashed my advantage by taking points. But then he was not in the break. It will come down to Saturday. Today was a tough day for me but it happens in a grand tour and I limited the damage. Hats off to him, he is strong. We’re going to go for it on Saturday, it will be a nice duel and in the end we will shake hands. I have no interest in riding the time trial full gas on Friday.”

 

Bora-Argon 18 on the attack in the Vuelta

 

Christoph Pfingsten and Scott Thwaites from BORA - ARGON 18 were in the break. José Mendes tried to bridge the gap together with Bouet. They rode more than 10k at 40 seconds before Mendes was dropped and Bouet closed the gap to the leading group. Mendes waited for the peloton again.

 

In the last kilometers, Christoph Pfingsten and Scott Thwaites were still in the breakaway and with the group, they went into the final climb. But both BORA - ARGON 18 riders are known more as rouleurs than climbers andtherefore the steep finish was too much for them. Christoph Pfingsten finished in 21st place, Scott Thwaites in 23rd.

 

"The start was really hard again. There were a lot of attacks on the first climb but Sky, Movistar and Tinkoff watched each other, therefore nobody was able to go away. The pace was simply extremly high. The group then went away after the downhill. In the end Frank and Cataldo made a move on an uphill section. They were really strong but I thought Lotto and Sky would close it. Well, they couldn't. The final climb was too steep for me against all these climbers in the group,” said Christoph Pfingsten.

 

Orica-BikeExchange: Chaves rode like a champion

ORICA-BikeExchange produced another tactically astute performance on stage 17 of La Vuelta a Espana today with Colombian Esteban Chaves covering moves late in the day and holding on to third overall with stage six winner Simon Yates still in fifth.

 

2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans and young Dane Magnus Cort made it into the day's breakaway group and nicely executed another potential network of support for Chaves and Yates on the stage finale.

 

Matthias Frank (IAM-Cycling) took the solo stage victory after attacking out of the breakaway on the approach to the finish on the Mas de la Costa.

 

ORICA-BikeExchange led the peloton onto the climb with both Chaves and Yates right at the front when the selection was made, with Cort and Gerrans positioned further up the road if required.

 

The anticipated high-flying attacks never quite materialised, although Chaves was alive to the danger when Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) had a dig with the Colombian maintaining tempo before pushing on in the closing metres.

 

The top four finished together with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) still in the race lead and Christiopher Froome (Team-Sky) in second 20seconds ahead of Chaves.

 

Contador sits in fourth place, five seconds behind Chaves with Yates in fifth ahead of tomorrow’s stage18.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens commended the efforts of the team on a tough finish to the stage.

 

“I think both Esteban (Chaves) and Simon (Yates) did a really good job today,” said Stephens. “We knew that the last climb was going to be really demanding, if you made one effort too many the you would pay for it for the rest of the way up and we saw riders shelled instantly from the favourites group.

 

“Simon rode really well, he rode within himself when the top four went off the front and basically time trialled his way to the line. Esteban rode like a champion, when Contador attacked he kept his head knowing that it would cost further up the road and waited until the final metres to try his luck.

 

“You have to commend all the top four riders, they were all pretty close to the edge at the end today yet hats off they all pulled back and finished together.

 

“Today’s parcours wasn’t really ideal terrain to go for a brave tactical move, but Simon (Gerrans) and Magnus (Cort) both did well in the breakaway and were in good positions should the situation have eventuated.”

 

Cannondale confident in in-form Talansky at the Vuelta

Andrew Talansky has always maintained that his form improves during a three-week race and that the third week of a Grand Tour is his strongest week of them all. He started week two of the Vuelta a España knocking on the door of the top ten overall and closed out the week in seventh place. Following the second rest day, Talansky grinded up the fearsome Mas de la Costa with the strongest climbers (save the top four on general classification) and jumped up to sixth place. Italian Davide Formolo maintains his hold on eighth overall, giving Cannondale-Drapac two riders solidly in the top ten.

 

“It went in a good way today,” said sport director Johnny Weltz. “Formolo and Talansky climbed with all the best guys. It’s a real positive point of the day to see Andrew move up a spot.”

 

Wednesday’s stage 17 was dominated by a 28-rider breakaway that formed more than one hour into the 178-kilometer stage. Cannondale-Drapac missed the move.

 

“Everything was together on the first second category climb,” noted Weltz. “There wasn’t any real danger – but then there was a crash. We had two bike incidents, and we were on the back foot for a few kilometers while we were sorting those out. That’s when the breakaway went, and once it went, it was gone. It just happened at the wrong moment for us.”

 

Four stages remain, including an individual time trial and a brutal mountain stage.

 

“It’s going to be interesting to see where we go from here,” said Weltz. “Formolo had doubts about himself and his capabilities over three weeks. That day he was up the road with Contador and the rest of the guys was a really fast stage. He didn’t have the top moment to finish it off for a stage victory, but I think it gave him confidence to see where he can be, and I hope that confidence carries him until Madrid.”

 

“With Andrew, he’s definitely on form, and he’s only getting better,” said Weltz. “He can do the time trial quite well. I think there’s still space for improvement.”

 

David De La Cruz still in the top 10 at the Vuelta

For Etixx-QuickStep, both Pieter Serry and Gianluca Brambilla, already a stage winner this edition, on Aramon Formigal, attacked and got a gap together with other riders, but the peloton came back every time and continued to stay together until after the top of Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, when a group eventually moved away from the pack. Among the 28 riders to go clear there was also Etixx – Quick-Step's Maxime Bouet, a stage runner-up at this edition of the Vuelta a España, who helped the breakaway build a significant advantage of nearly seven minutes.

 

Once again, David De La Cruz proved that this Vuelta a España is a cornerstone in his career, riding with the legs as well as with his head on the excruciating gradients of the first-category ascent which was making its debut in the race, just as the stage reached its crescendo. The 27-year-old Spaniard – 10th now in the overall rankings – rode a steady pace on Mas de la Costa, without going into red, and didn't concede too much time on the stage 17 finale, showing maturity and an impressive form which keep him in the cards for a solid overall result in his home Grand Tour.


Giant-Alpecin: We have three big opportunities in this Vuelta

For Team Giant-Alpecin it was a day to overcome and to save as much energy as possible. Koen de Kort was the first rider home for the team in 59th place.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said: “It was a very difficult start to today’s stage, also with a tough summit finish. We just use today’s stage to get back in the feeling of racing again after yesterday’s rest day. Our aim was to get through the stage and to use as little energy as possible. Indeed, we have three stages ahead where we have a very good chance of making a top result with the time trial and two sprint opportunities.”

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