La Vuelta a Espana 2019 – Philippe Gilbert wins Stage 17 as crosswinds blow La Vuelta wide open – ASIA

La Vuelta a Espana 2019 - Philippe Gilbert wins Stage 17 as crosswinds blow La Vuelta wide open - ASIA
Vuelta a España stage 17: Gilbert wins as Quintana battles back
Fast Talk podcast Crosswinds created havoc at the Vuelta a España as a 50-man breakaway gained valuable time, vaulting Nairo Quintana back into contention. Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Email Icon There are no easy days at this Vuelta a España.

On paper, Wednesday’s hilly 219.6-kilometer route from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara appeared to be another straightforward sprint stage to open the Vuelta’s final five days of racing.

Such was the drama playing out on the barren, rolling roads of Castilla-La Mancha that the host broadcaster brought the live coverage of the stage forward by half an hour. A good thing, too. After all, its not often you see a diminutive Colombian climber in the green jersey, bossing the echelons in a stage devoid of any categorised climbs.

And then, brutal crosswinds and cagy tactics by Team Movistar and Deceuninck-Quick Step ripped the Vuelta to pieces and upended the battle for the red jersey. A front group of nearly 50 riders tore clear of the peloton after just 20 or so kilometers of racing, and gained 5:29 on the group containing leader Primoz Roglic.

The Dutch champion dropped back to the main pack with QuickStep teammate Eros Capecchi – to discover a main pack only in name. Corresponding attacks from Movistar – this time for Valverde – had successfully blown things apart again, isolating Roglic and momentarily distancing the Colombian Esteban Chaves and his Mitchelton-Scott contingent.

Philippe Gilbert, who at one point had five Deceuninck-Quick Step teammates alongside him in the front group, took the sprint win ahead of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe).

With the breakaway covering the first 50km in just 55 minutes, there was no let-up in the leg-burning pace, with the chasing peloton gradually whittled down as Belgian veteran Gilbert led the move home more than an hour-and-a-quarter ahead of schedule – at a staggering average speed of 50.63km/h.

“I think it’s one kind of a stage that will stay in history because of the way we rode,” Gilbert said at the finish. “It was crazy from the gun.”

But the mountains return, nevertheless, for this monster 177.5km stage which features four Cat.1 climbs, a fast and technical descent towards the finish, and an uphill ramp to the line. With so many weary legs after Wednesdays butchery, there could be further carnage in the battle for red.

Nairo Quintana, who came into the stage languishing 7:43 behind Roglic, was the day’s big GC winner, vaulting into second place in the overall, just 2:24 down. Behind Quintana, other GC riders in the group leapfrogged other riders behind.

Having matches to burn, QuickStep could afford to have Tim Declercq bury himself on the front to tire out Bennett and help despatch the other potential fast finishers – the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Sunweb duo Max Walscheid and Nikias Arndt.

Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) went from 8th place to 6th place overall; James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick Step) went from 11th place to 8th overall; and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) took 8 places forward, advancing from 18th overall to 10th place in GC.

Back with the chasers, Lopez put in an attack on the home straight to lead home Valverde, Roglic, Pogacar and Majka – the mornings top five – in that order, 529 down, after losing out to Quintana, who was awarded with the days combativity prize.

Gilbert said the combination of winds and aggressive racing drove the group onward. Teams Ineos, Sunweb, Movistar, and Mitchelton-Scott all had multiple riders in the group.

“It was really fast, and at one point we were riding on the flats at like 75-kilometers an hour,” Gilbert said. “I had a 54X11 [gear] and I was spinning 110 rpm and it was really crazy fast. In 17 years of racing I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

Isolated from his Jumbo-Visma teammates, Roglic came home in the main field alongside fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), the Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and the world champion Valverde, 529 down on the winner.

In the main field, Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma squad took turns pulling the peloton with Astana. At one point, the gap approached 8 minutes. By the finish, the two teams had narrowed it to just 5:29.

Dutchman Wilco Kelderman also rose to sixth in the GC after starring in the break alongside three Sunweb teammates, while Belgiums Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) entered the top 10 after finishing fourth behind QuickSteps Remi Cavagna.

After the stage, Roglic said he was initially caught out by the aggressive racing in the early moments of the stage. Roglic credited his Jumbo-Visma teammates with saving his lead.

But in being forced to launch early, Bennett had bitten off more than he could chew. Unable to maintain his pace on the unforgiving home straight, Bennetts head dropped as Gilbert surged past for a seventh career win on the Vuelta.

“I did a mistake for sure—I shouldn’t be in the place that I was. I should be in front,” Roglic said. “But the team saved me and did a really big effort and in the end we are still in a good position.”

There was no let up as Quintanas three Movistar teammates in the move – Jose Joaquin Rojas, Imanol Erviti and Nelson Oliveira – drove the tempo on an uphill rise, putting the hammer into Jakobsens chances with 48km remaining.

Indeed, Roglic still holds 2:24 over Quintana with just two climbing stages remaining in the race. And during the second week, Roglic showed himself to be a far superior climber than Quintana at this year’s race.

With seven riders in the move, Deceuninck-QuickStep pulled the strings as 37-year-old Gilbert picked up his second win of the race after out-lasting Irelands Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) in an uphill drag-race in Guadalajara.

Still, if the wind blows and the tactics become aggressive, anything is possible at this Vuelta. Roglic said Jumbo-Visma is up to the challenge.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) returned to the battle for the general classification at the Vuelta a España with a vengeance on a day of high drama in which a 40-rider breakaway punched a vast hole in the overall classification.

Having made it into the front group when it formed in the opening kilometres and survived on the windblasted stage 17 – the longest of the Vuelta – Quintana grabbed a total of 5:19 on his rivals, moving up to second overall.

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