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Vuelta a España 2011: Stage 17


Welcome to stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, 211km from Faustino V to Peña Cabarga.

80km remaining from 212km

As we pick up the action, an interesting-looking break featuring Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Oliver Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Guillaume Bonnaford (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Evgeni Petrov (Astana) and Johannes Frohlinger (Skil-Shimano) has 2:50 in hand over the peloton.

This current move formed 116km into today's stage, but the attacking was fierce from the moment the flag dropped.

Frohlinger and Chavanel were both part of an earlier large breakaway group that forced its way clear in after 44km.

Frohlinger and Chavanel were both part of an earlier large breakaway group that forced its way clear after 44km.

The 20-man break had a lead of 1:17 at the summit of the day's first climb, the 3rd category Portillo de Bustos, where Christophe Le Mevel picked up the points.

Katusha were not represented in the break, however, and they massed at the front to bring it back. Indeed, such were their efforts that they not only reeled in the escapees, but they split the peloton. Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) was among those caught behind, but after a frantic chase, he got back on board. The Dutchman is lying in 10th place overall.

Shortly afterwards, our current leading quintet zipped off the front of the bunch and they soon built up a decent advantage. Back in the main peloton, Vacansoleil are riding tempo, but the pace is not quite as intense as it was at the mid point of the stage.

57km remaining from 212km

The break is now on the lower slopes of the 2nd category Portillo de Lunada, where Olivier Kaisen is attempting to forge his way clear.

At the rear of the main peloton, Movistar duo Angel Madrazo and Imanol Erviti are beginning to fail the effects of the Vacansoleil pace-making as the bunch approaches the climb.

A lot of riders are feeling the strain of what has been a very fast and tough Vuelta a Espana. The profile of the final week is more benign than the succession of mountain stages we saw in week two, but as today has shown, stages such as this are difficult to control and they take their toll on the peloton.

One rider who was suffering was Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), and he abandoned the race 51km into proceedings, after a ferocious opening hour of action. The Estonian had taken a fine win at La Farrapona on Saturday.

Up front Kaisen's attack has been snuffed out by his fellow escapees, but Sylvain Chavanel was unable to follow and he has sat up.

Mathias Frank (BMC) and Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) have attacked out of the main peloton in pursuit of the escapees.

King of the mountains David Moncoutie (Cofidis) is next to respond and he brings a decent-sized group with him out of the peloton. Meanwhile, the gap to the break ahead is collapsing.

52km remaining from 212km

Moncoutie, Bruseghin and Frank combine to make it across to the the leaders, 31 seconds clear of the Vacansoleil-led peloton.

Marzio Bruseghin goes straight to the front of the group and is tapping out a fierce rhythm on the second category climb. David Moncoutie sits on his wheel, and the Frenchman is looking comfortable.

50km remaining from 212km

The familiar figure of Vladmiri Karpets gives way at the front of the peloton, and the Geox-TMC squad of Juan Jose Cobo are now taking up responsibility for controlling the bunch, Carlos Sastre among them.

Frohlinger is struggling to hang on to the back of the break as Bruseghin continues his forcing. The veteran Italian is putting in a decent ride here, as he opens the gap out to 38 seconds over the bunch.

Bruseghin was withdrawn from Movistar's Giro d'Italia line-up earlier this year due to his implication in the Mantova doping investigation.

48km remaining from 212km

Over the top of the climb Kaisen and Moncoutie career off the front to chase the points, while Frohlinger is jettisoned off the back. They should all come back together on the descent.

The Geox-TMC-led peloton follows over the summit 38 seconds down. If Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) were still in contention for the red jersey, this magnificent descent would provide an ideal springboard for an attack. It remains to be seen if Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins are tempted to test out Cobo here.

Geox-TMC are keeping the pace high on the descent to try and ensure that nobody attempts to steal a march on their man Cobo. In any case, there is about 20km of valley between the foot of the descent and the final climb, so it would be tough for any attackers to hold their advantage to the base of Pena Cabarga.

Cobo is dealing well with the descent so far. His Geox-TMC squad have even stretched out some gaps in the peloton, and Cobo is safely sitting towards the front.

The climb of Pena Cabarga featured in a dramatic stage of last year's Vuelta, and Joaquim Rodriguez bounded up its slopes to take the win on that occasion. The Catalan was a faller in the finale yesterday however, and that crash certainly won't have helped his chances here.

32km remaining from 212km

Movistar will be glad to have Bruseghin starring in the break, given that it's been a difficult day for the team so far. David López, Sergio Pardilla and Ignatas Konovalovas have all abandoned the race, reportedly suffering from a stomach virus. While the team are considering the possibility of food poisoning, Biciciclismo reports that Cofidis, Andalucia-Caja Granada and Skil-Shimano all shared the same hotel.

At the base of the descent, the peloton succeeds in swallowing the breakaways. As soon as they are caught, Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Pablo Lastras (Movistar) slip clear.

We are informed that Lastras and Bruseghin are the only two Movistar riders not affected by illness today, and the pair have both done their bit to fly the flag at the front of the bunch.

28km remaining from 212km

The Lastras-Kashechkin tandem is a short-lived one, however, and the pair are soon brought to heel. Meanwhile, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has been spotted near the front end of the peloton. He is currently sitting on Cobo's rear wheel.

25km remaining from 212km

Geox-TMC will try and control the peloton between now and the foot of the climb. Before then, there is an intermediate sprint with 10km to go, and Geox will be looking to stop Froome or Wiggins from clipping off the front and hoovering up the bonus seconds.

Joaquim Rodriguez clearly fancies his chances of completing a hat-trick of Vuelta stage wins today. His Katusha teammates are now at the head of the peloton setting the pace.

20km remaining from 212km

Geox and Katusha have been setting a hyperactive tempo since the top of the Portillo de Lunada and there are a lot of riders struggling to hang on the rear of the peloton.


16km remaining from 212km

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) manages - somehow - to wrestle his way clear of Katusha and Geox's stranglehold on the front of the bunch, but the Belgian will have his work cut out to stay clear given his earlier efforts on the stage.

15km remaining from 212km

The effervescent Van Avermaet's attack soon fizzles out, however. Geox will have to be wise to any moves from Sky on the run-in to the intermediate sprint.

The peloton is strung out in a long line at high speed until it hits a short uphill section. There is something of a concertina effect at the front end of the bunch, allowing riders to move up. Rodriguez and Wiggins are among them.

12km remaining from 212km

The road flattens out again slightly, and once more it's Katusha stretching things out.

A little over a kilometre to go the intermediate sprint, with Katusha and Geox riders dominating the first positions.

No real drama to report from the sprint: Katusha rolled across in the first two positions, while David De La Fuente (Geox-TMC) polices affairs at the front and takes the two bonus seconds on offer for third place.

Incidentally, Luca Paolini led over Eduard Vorganov over the line at the intermediate sprint under De La Fuente's watchful gaze.

8km remaining from 212km

An advance party of Omega Pharma-Lotto riders hit the front now in a bid to set up Jurgen Van Den Broeck for the stage win.

7km remaining from 212km

An advance party of Omega Pharma-Lotto riders come to the front in a bid to set up Jurgen Van Den Broeck as the bunch approaches the climb.

7km remaining from 212km

An advance party of Omega Pharma-Lotto riders come to the front in a bid to set up Jurgen Van Den Broeck as the bunch approaches the climb.

7km remaining from 212km

An advance party of Omega Pharma-Lotto riders come to the front in a bid to set up Jurgen Van Den Broeck as the bunch approaches the climb.

6km remaining from 212km

As the climbing begins in earnest, Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) goes to the front, with race leader Cobo on his wheel.

5km remaining from 212km

Cobo swings over and Dan Martin leaps clear. Txurruka jumps onto his wheel, but the overall contenders have so far left them to it.

Txurruka can't match Martin's pace and the Irishman is pulling clear alone. An intelligent attack from Martin.

Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) jumps out of the red jersey group in lone pursuit.

Denis Menchov takes over the reins in the red jersey group and sets a steady tempo, 10 seconds down on Martin.

4km remaining from 212km

Bruseghin comes past Menchov, edges around Sorensen and grinds up the climb in pursuit of the bobbing Dan Martin.

Bruseghin is slowly but surely making his way up to Martin's rear wheel.

Bruseghin catches Martin and then instantly tries to rip clear alone. Martin doesn't panic, however, and is sitting on Bruseghin's wheel. In t he final 2km, the lighter Martin should be at an advantage, but he needs to resists Bruseghin's forcing here.

3km remaining from 212km

Bruseghin and Martin have 14 seconds over the red jersey group. Cobo has his red jersey unzipped with Froome poised on his rear wheel. Menchov continues to set the tempo, while Rodriguez is priming himself to strike.

Sorensen has done well here - the experienced Dane has managed to catch Martin and Bruseghin as the road kicks upwards.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck jumps out of the red jersey group just ahead of the brief downhill section, while Rodriguez drops back. Wiggins is still in the 15-strong red jersey group.

2km remaining from 212km

Van Den Broeck gets across to Bruseghin, Martin and Sorensen just ahead of the steepest section, and then dances clear alone. Martin chases.

1km remaining from 212km

As the road pitches up to 13% Rodriguez is dropped, while the red jersey group inches its way up and catches Van Den Broeck. 

Cobo comes to the front of the race now alongside Mikel Nieve. The red jersey slows the pace, and as he does, Van Den Broeck goes again.

Initially there was no reaction from the red jersey group, but first Nieve and then Cobo give chase.

1km remaining from 212km

Van Den Broeck is brought back under the red kite, and then Cobo jumps clear with Froome on his wheel. Wiggins is distanced.

Incredible, Froome comes past Cobo and puts in a searing acceleration.

Cobo can't respond and appears to be suffering badly. In a startling performance, Froome could be riding his way back into the red jersey.

The climb is very steep in this final kilometre, but Froome is battling on and retaining a high tempo. Behind Cobo appears to have recovered a little and is closing the gap dramatically.

Into the finishing straight, and Cobo has come back onto Froome's wheel. They're going to sprint it out for the stage win and the bonus seconds.

Cobo kicks for the line, but has he gone too soon?

Froome gets the win. The Sky rider delved deep into the mythical suitcase of pain to come around Cobo.

Froome pegs back 8 bonus seconds on Cobo, but both riders cross the line exhausted.

Bauke Mollema comes home in 3rd place just ahead of a valiant Dan Martin.

Froome passed Kobo on the inside of the final left hand bend with one immense, last-ditch effort.

Froome passed Cobo on the inside of the final left hand bend with one immense, last-ditch effort.

Cobo was a second down on Froome at the finish, but Bradley Wiggins lost 39 seconds to ensure that it is a two-way battle for overall honours now.

Overall, Cobo's lead has been cut to 13 seconds, while Wiggins is now 1:41 down in third place.

Bauke Mollema will retain fourth place overall after coming in the best of the rest 21 seconds down.


1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:52:38
2 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 0:00:01
3 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:21
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:24
5 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:27
6 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:27
7 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team 0:00:29
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:31
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC 0:00:31
10 Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:35

General classification:

1 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 69:31:41
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:13
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:41
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:05
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC 0:03:48
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:04:31
7 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:04:45
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:05:20
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:05:33
10 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:07:06

It was a disappointing day for the Leopard Trek team, as both Jakob Fuglsang and Maxime Monfort slid out of the top ten. Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) was another man to lose ground.

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of today's gripping stage. We'll be back for more tomorrow, but in the meantime, stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full report and results from today's stage, as well as all the very latest news from Spain.

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