La Vuelta: Denifl conquers Alto de los Machucos as Froome cracks

Stefan Denifl vuelta 2017 stage 17

Chris Froome had his lead cut at the Vuelta as Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) won stage 17 atop the gruellinng climb Los Machucos.

Froome struggled to find his rhythm on a climb he had predicted to be “brutal”, conceding 42 seconds to his main rival Vincenzo Nibali on a day the Italian rider slashed the Briton’s lead to one minute and 16 seconds in the battle for red.

Denifl attacked out of a breakaway with five kilometres to go to hold off a brave chase by Alberto Contador to win a brutal mountainous stage.

Contador was 28sec back to aid his chances of making the general classification podium with Miguel Angel Lopez 1min 04sec down in third.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys gradients over 25 percent but that’s just how it is and it’s the same for all of us,” said Froome.

The Briton has three more competitive stages to defend his lead before Sunday’s traditional parade around Madrid with the queen stage up the Alto de l’Angliru still to come on Saturday.

“It’s never nice to lose time but I feel good. Three more days and I’m confident we can get the job done,” he added.

Denifl’s win is by a distance the biggest in Irish team Aqua Blue Cycling’s short history.

Aqua Blue needed an invite to take part in the race in their first year as a professional team and also had to overcome the misfortune of their team bus being hit by an arson attack earlier in the event.

Denifl was part of an early six-man breakaway and stayed out on in front of the general classification favourites despite immense pressure from Contador in the final stages.

The Spanish veteran didn’t get the stage win he desired in his final race before retirement.

However, Contador, a three-time Vuelta winner, is now just 1min 21sec down on Wilco Kelderman in the battle for the podium as he remains fifth overall.

Vuelta a Espana 2017 – stage 17 results (Villadiego – Los Machucos):

1 Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport)


2 Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)


3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)


4 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)


5 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)


6 Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe)


7 Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac)


8 Daniel Moreno (Movistar)


9 Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)


10 David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors)


11 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)


12 Jack Haig (Orica-Scott)


13 Mike Nieve (Team Sky)


14 Chris Froome (Team Sky)


15 Wout Poels (Team Sky)


16 Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)


17 Fabio Aru (Astana)


18 Pello Bilbao (Astana)


19 Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)


20 Romain Bardet (AG2R)



General classification after stage 17:

1 Chris Froome (Team Sky)


2 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)


3 Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)


4 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)


5 Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)


6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)


7 Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac)


8 Wout Poels (Team Sky)


9 Fabio Aru (Astana)


10 David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors)


11 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)


12 Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)


13 Tejay Van Garderen (BMC)


14 Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)


15 Mikel Nieve (Team Sky)


16 Sergio Padilla (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA)


17 Nicolas Roche (BMC)


18 Daniel Moreno (Movistar)


19 Romain Bardet (AG2R)


20 Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates)



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