Vuelta a Espana: Chaves holds onto second despite late Roche attack
Orica-Scott rider tied at 36 seconds behind race leader Froome
On the fast descent off the category one Collado Bermejo, Vincenzo Nibali looked the rider most likely to steal time on his Vuelta a Espana GC rivals and improve upon his fourth place overall. However, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) was attentive to the Bahrain-Merida rider and ensured the move was closed down and there would be no repeat of the stage 3 victory.
In the closing kilometres of stage 10, Nico Roche (BMC) sprung a surprise on the GC group to jump away and close the gap to Chaves and race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky). The lack of attention to Roche's move by Chaves and the GC men saw the Irishman move into equal second overall, tied on time with Chaves at 36 seconds behind Froome.
Sport director Neil Stephens, who suffered a flat tyre in the team care on the Collado Bermejo descent, explained post-stage it was disappointing to cough up almost 30 seconds to Roche. But added he believes Chaves' GC bid is still alive and well.
"The boys did a great job again. They were placed really well down the descent," Stephens said. "In the final there, Nicholas Roche was able to get a bit of a gap and it grew out before Jack was able to get back and help to limit the losses a little bit.
"It's unfortunate we lost that little bit of time, but we think our general classification ambitions are still in order and going really well."
With no change to the top-ten standings, Roche was the big GC winner on the day. The wet weather limited the risks some riders were willing to take as Adam Yates explained, adding it was still a good day for Orica-Scott all things considered.
"It was pretty tricky. It rained so much at the beginning, the road was still quite wet. It was pretty slippery out there, quite dangerous especially when guys tried to push and create the gaps," said Yates, who remains the best young rider. "But we were in good positions at the top of the climbs. In general we had a good day. Nicolas Roche took some big risks. We didn't want to crash. We got a lot of stages coming up and I'm sure we can try something in the coming days."
Having won four stages and placed Chaves on the podium last year at the Vuelta, Orica-Scott is focused solely on the GC in 2017. However, with the likes of Sky allowing the breakaway to contest the win, with Orica bound Matteo Trentin taking the win, Stephens added it would have been a day for the team to challenge for a win without hindering its GC aspirations with Chaves and the Yates twins.
"The break took a really long time to get away. It's unfortunate, we tried really hard to be there today and finally when the break did get away, it was the one we weren't in," he said. "It wasn't the end of the world, rather we just had to reset, and go back into thinking about the stage and how we maintain our general classification position."
Stage 11 of the Vuelta is the first serious summit finish of 2017 with the peloton riding from Lorca to the Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto at 2,120 metres in elevation. The riders will tackle the 13.2km Alto de Velefique before the fast descent and 15.5 km climb to Calar Alto where Chaves will aim to take back the time lost to Roche.
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