Quintana avoids mistakes in nervous, thrilling Mas de la Costa climb on Vuelta stage 17; finishes alongside Froome, Chaves and Contador. Colombian superstar and Alejandro Valverde remain in GC and Points leads with four days until Madrid, as José Herrada finishes 6th following long, 28-rider break with Imanol Erviti
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. Nairo, 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, José 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 into the ascent, the three securing a good position for Quintana before an equal duel against his GC rivals. The 3'37" gap between Nairo 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 Nairo from prior to the rest day.
Nairo Quintana: “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 feels are good and my team has been on point again today. Let’s hope we can finish this off.”