photo credits @ la Vuelta
Aqua Blue Sport’s Stefan Denifl claimed today’s grueling stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, after the Austrian rider staged an attack along the punishing final climb to Los Machucos, to claim a solo victory almost half a minute ahead of his closest rival.
Indeed, Denifl sealed a sensational victory by 28 seconds for the Irish Pro Continental Team in their debut Grand Tour, despite the determined efforts of second-placed Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).
The veteran Spanish rider staged another brilliant attack along the brutal final ascent, but came up just short as Denifl calmly maintained an impressive tempo to seize a solo win.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s winner, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team, finished in third at 1:04 down on Denifl.
Denifl commenced his winning move from a breakaway group with 5 kilometer to go, while Contador accelerated away from a group of favorites including race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), in pursuit of the Aqua Blue Sport rider on a climb that kicked up to over a 25 per cent gradient.
Having been distanced on that final climb, Froome worked with his teammates to limit his losses and rolled over the line 1:46 down on Denifl, while also losing 42 seconds to Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha Alpecin) and 1:18 to Contador.
Nevertheless, Froome managed to hold onto the overall race lead with a 1:16 over Nibali, while Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) remains in third at 2:13 behind the leader.
A breakaway group containing Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) was there with Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Chris Juul Jensen (ORICA-SCOTT), Dani Moreno (Movistar), current KOM leader Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) and Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport), got underway early on in today’s stage.
From there, the escapees’ lead swelled to more than 10 minutes, but a vigilant Team Sky, along with BORA-Hansgrohe, worked hard to close the gap throughout the day.
However, Froome struggled to stay with teammate Mikel Nieve during the final two kilometers, ultimately finishing almost two minutes down on Denifl.
1 Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) 4hr 48’52”
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Trek-Segafredo) +28
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) +1’04”
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
6 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe)
7 Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) +1’13”
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Movistar Team) +1’17”
9 Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +1’19
10 David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) +1’42”
1 Christopher Froome (Team Sky) 67hr 44’03”
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +1’16”
3 Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +2’13”
4 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) +2’25”
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (Trek-Segafredo) +3’34”
6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) +4’39”
7 Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) +6’33”
8 Wout Poels (Team Sky) +6’40”
9 Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) +6’45”
10 David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) +10’10”
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