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):

1Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport)


2Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)


3Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)


4Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)


5Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)


6Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe)


7Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac)


8Daniel Moreno (Movistar)


9Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)


10David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors)


11Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)


12Jack Haig (Orica-Scott)


13Mike Nieve (Team Sky)


14Chris Froome (Team Sky)


15Wout Poels (Team Sky)


16Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)


17Fabio Aru (Astana)


18Pello Bilbao (Astana)


19Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)


20Romain Bardet (AG2R)



General classification after stage 17:

1Chris Froome (Team Sky)


2Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)


3Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)


4Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)


5Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)


6Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)


7Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac)


8Wout Poels (Team Sky)


9Fabio Aru (Astana)


10David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors)


11Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)


12Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)


13Tejay Van Garderen (BMC)


14Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)


15Mikel Nieve (Team Sky)


16Sergio Padilla (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA)


17Nicolas Roche (BMC)


18Daniel Moreno (Movistar)


19Romain Bardet (AG2R)


20Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates)



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