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Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 17


Welcome to our live coverage of stage 17 of the 2016 Vuelta a España, a 177.5km stage finishing on the punishing climb of the Mas de la Costa.


Vuelta a España hub page on Cyclingnews

Stage 16 report: Drucker wins sprint finish

Hell Starts Here: The Vuelta’s Ascent to Mas de la Costa

Podcast: Does Quintana have the Vuelta wrapped up?

Hello there, and welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre for stage 17 of the Vuelta, which features the penultimate summit finish of the race. It's the Alto Mas de la Costa - it's short but steep, and it's another big GC day. 

The team buses have gathered in Castellón and the riders are going through the whole pre-race routine. They'll be rolling out at around 12.40pm local time and, after a lengthy neutral zone, they're set to reach KM0 some 20 minutes later.

Stage profile


The final climb is the one that stands out but, as you can see, there's plenty of tough terrain to be covered before they get there. Indeed, the road kicks uphill after just 10km for a second-category ascent, and that has caused many teams to get their riders out on the rollers. 


As for that final climb, our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham has been to check it out, and he has sent in this detailed preview piece. 


Hell Starts Here: The Vuelta's Ascent to Mas de la Costa



Here's a reminder of how the GC looks after 16 stages


1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 64:57:27
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:05:07
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:06:12
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:06:43
8 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:17
9 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:07:23
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:07:39


The riders have just rolled out of Castellón under baking sunshine. The heat - well into the 30's - could be a big factor today. Racing proper should begin in 20 minutes or so. 


The final climb may only be just over 4km long, but Alberto Contador knows it will pack a punch. 


"I know the climb personally and I went up it very recently," the Spaniard said in his rest-day press conference. "The gaps will be far bigger. It's going to be extremely hot and there's more than 3,700 metres of vertical climbing. It'll be one of the hardest days of the entire Vuelta."


Click through for the full story

We have 163 riders out there, with Jos Van Emden the only non-starter, having abandoned overnight through fatigue. 


Before the flag drops, here's a reminder of the jersey wearers. 


Red (overall): Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Green (points): Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Polka-dot (mountains): Kenny Elissonde (FDJ)

White (combined): Chris Froome (Sky) - on loan from Quitnana

We're off!


After a delay caused by a minor crash in the neutral zone, the riders reach KM0 and the flag drops. 


With that first climb only 10km away, it could be a fast and frantic start to proceedings. 


Katusha's Tiago Machado is the first to attack and he drags a group of riders with him, but they're unable to make it stick. 

Lots of riders trying to clip off the front.


The riders have just passed through Benicassim and are about to start the first climb of the day. 

Alto del Desierto de las Palmas (Cat 2)

7.3km long

5.1% average gradient


165km remaining from 177km

We have a four-rider move currently clear of the peloton.


Axel Domont (AG2R - La Mondiale), Omar Fraile and Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie).


That's a concern for polka-dot jersey wearer Elissonde, as Fraile is just below him in the mountains classification. The diminutive Frenchman is forced onto the front foot and is on the attack.

That move is shut down and the peloton comes back together. But it's all-action out there on the climb, with riders constantly looking to open up a gap 


Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) is the next to attack as the riders hit the second half of the climb.


It's the breakaway hopefuls we're seeing put in the moves today. All quiet on the GC front, so it doesn't look like we're in for a repeat of Sunday's early fireworks. 


Yuri Trofimov (Tinkoff), David Lopez (Team Sky) and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quick Step) link up with Mamykin but it's shut down and the race comes back together.


Fraile and Elissonde are keen to get away here in search of the KOM points. 


Fraile is first over the summit of the Desierto de las Palmas and collects maximum KOM points.


A gentle descent now and Gianluca Brambilla and Yuri Trofimov are keen to go on the attack. The pace is high in the group behind, though.


147km remaining from 177km

All back together 


Here's how the Mountains Classification now looks after Fraile's five-point haul on that early climb. 


1 Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) 56 pts
2 Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 53 
3 Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo) 30
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 27
5 Alexandre Geniez  (FDJ) 25


Here's how the Mountains Classification now looks after Fraile's five-point haul on that early climb. 


1 Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) 56 pts
2 Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 53 
3 Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo) 30
4 Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) 28
5 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 27


Here's how the Mountains Classification now looks after Fraile's five-point haul on that early climb. 


1 Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) 56 pts
2 Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 53 
3 Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo) 30
4 Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) 28
5 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 27


142km remaining from 177km

A large group of riders now has a thin margin at the head of the race. 

#LV2016 a group of seventeen riders have a 10" advantage on the peloton. Will this be the breakaway of the day?

@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 7th Sep 2016 11:57:30

More riders try to bridge across but once again the race comes back together.


We now have a whopping 27-rider group off the front with a very slim advantage. 


#LV2016 after one hour of racing we still are yet to see a break go!

@BMCProTeam Wed, 7th Sep 2016 12:02:34

136km remaining from 177km

Will we see a breakaway form in the next 20 or so kilometres? After that we'll be onto the second climb of the day.

Hang on - that huge group is getting away... This could be our break

Despite the size of the breakaway, the peloton is happy to ease up - there are no GC dangers in there. A couple of riders who missed the boat are trying to jump across. 

130km remaining from 177km

A large group of 27 riders now has almost a minute on two chasers and 1:38 on the peloton. We'll bring you all the names in just a moment.

So here you have it, the 27 escapees - who now have 2:27 on the peloton: José Herrada (Movistar), Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale), Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Michal Golas (Team Sky), Leopold Konig (Team Sky), Silvan Dilier (BMC), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Simon Gerrans (Orica-BrikeExchange), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange), Dario Cataldo (Astana), 75 Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek-Segafrado), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Kristan Sbaragli (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling), Clément Chevrier (IAM cycling), Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre Merida), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora Argon 18), Scott Thwaites (Bora Argon 18), Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jaime Roson (Caja Rural-Serguros RGA), Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie).


The two chasers are Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jose Mendes (Bora Argon 18). They are actually making some ground on the leaders at the moment and they now trail by 48 seconds.


It is interesting to note that all of the top teams have at least one rider in this group. Movistar, Sky and Orica all have two while Tinkoff and Astana have one. David de la Cruz tried to go earlier on but missed the cut and now Bouet is trying to get Etixx represented at the front. The only top 10 team that doesn't have someone in either the lead or chasing group is Cannondale-Drapac. 


A picture of the breakaway as it began to form a little earlier.



News coming through that Tejay van Garderen has abandoned. The American came to the Vuelta with hopes of a stage win but it hasn't worked out. 


Bouet has dropped Mendes and made it up to the front group which is good news for Etixx-QuickStep. 


Today will be the final clear opportunity for the GC riders ahead of Friday's time trial. Quintana went into today's stage with a big 3:37 lead on Froome, but does the Team Sky rider still stand a chance to claim victory? We discussed this and more in the latest Cyclingnews Podcast


Now alone, Mendes is slipping slowly back to the peloton. He is now over two minutes behind the 28 leaders and 2:26 in front of the peloton. The gap between the leaders is now at 4:28.


Broa-Argon 18 will not be too worried about Mendes failing the make it up to the lead group as they already have Thwaites and Pfingsten up there. Thwaites has already been in the break at this year's Vuelta, which is the first Grand Tour of his career. 


The leaders are on the first climb of the Alto de la Sarratella. It's a second category climb that averages 3.6 per cent over 4.5km.


Mendes is now back in the bunch.


102km remaining from 177km

As the riders approach the 100km to go mark, the gap to the escapees grows to just under five minutes. With so many teams getting riders into the break, Movistar have no excuse to shirk their responsibilities at the front of the bunch and it is Rory Sutherland who heads proceedings. 

It's Movistar, then Sky, Tinkoff, and Orica at the front of the bunch and it's a relaxed pace on this climb.

38km/h is the average speed of the leaders across two hours of racing. 


Sbaragli leads the break over the top of the Serratella.


The peloton roll over the summit now 5:20 in arrears


A shot of our breakaway



Movistar are just keeping the pace ticking over in the peloton, though they've let the gap go out now to over 6 minutes. Just under 80km to go and it looks increasingly likely that the break will make it to the final climb. 

72km remaining from 177km

The gap hits 7 minutes now


The break is making its way up the gentle slopes of the Alto de Benasal, our third climb of the day. It's a third category ascent, with an average gradient of 3% over 11.2km.


Yesterday's rest-day saw press conferences from all the big names. Alberto Contador spoke about today's stage, his chances for what's left of the race, and the gruppetto polemica. Here's the full story:


Contador: Mas de la Costa stage will be one of the toughest of the entire Vuelta


Sbaragli once again mops up the points atop the Benasal, though none of the riders here are any threat in terms of the mountains classification.


Having almost hit eight minutes, the gap between the break and the peloton begins to fall now thanks to BMC hitting the front of the bunch to set the pace. 

Why are BMC riding?


They have Samuel Sanchez in 6th overall, but perhaps its their lead in the teams classification that they're trying to protect. 

51km remaining from 177km

Both groups are heading gently downhill and BMC are still eating into the advantage with just over 50km remaining. 5:45 is the current margin.

Who's going to win today?


There's no guarantee now that the break will make it, but if it does, Robert Gesink set the Strava KOM on the climb during his rest-day recon yesterday...


Who's your pick? Let me know via Twitter - @paddyfletch


Here's what awaits...



The breakaway riders get themselves organised nicely once again and manage to stop the rot. The gap, which was falling quickly, has been stabilised at 5:50. There's enough manpower in there for them to be an equal match for the powers that be in the peloton. 

Just under 40km remaining and the terrain undulates gently now all the way to the final 4km and the gateway to hell...

Attack from the break from Maxime Bouet.


Bouet's not too happy with the way this is playing out. Tankink and Garcia follow him but neither are forthcoming when the Etixx-QuickStep rider flicks his elbow and then gestures exasperatedly for them to contribute. 


30km remaining from 177km

Tankink won't be trying too hard to get away - he has teammate Gesink in there who represents a decent bet for stage honours and doesn't necessarily need to get away ahead of the climb. 


Cataldo attacks now and he has one of the IAM riders for company. 


Some of these riders know their chances wouldn't be great if they leave things until the final climb, so their only hope will be to try and create a move and open up an advantage ahead of the ascent.


The IAM rider is Frank. He and Cataldo have a decent gap here. 


The chase will have to get organised and indeed Tankink hits the front, protecting the interests of Gesink. Konig's also up there as the break starts to fragment. 

25km remaining from 177km

Cataldo and Frank have 15 seconds


Cataldo and Frank are working well here, and they take their advantage out to 25 seconds. There's still a long way to the final climb and this is going to be a really taxing effort. 


17km remaining from 177km

Still 25 seconds for our leading duo, while the peloton are still 6 minutes in arrears. 

We checked out this devilish final climb this morning - in the car, not on the bike - and can confirm that it's brutal. 


There's an average of 12.7%, pitches of over 20%, and a vertical gain of 486metres in just over 4km. And what's more, it's a narrow road, with the first half tarmacked and then the second half made up of dusty cement track. Little wonder, then, that graffiti at the bottom reads 'Hell starts here'


Read our full preview:

Hell Starts Here: The Vuelta's Ascent to Mas de la Costa


13km remaining from 177km

The onus is on Tankink here to try and keep this leading duo under control. They're still 25 seconds out in front and it's Cataldo who looks the more keen to push on. 

Tankink probably isn't overly concerned here. This duo, who have had to work really hard here in the last 15km, would probably need more than 30 seconds on this final climb. 


10km remaining from 177km

35 seconds for Cataldo and Frank. BMC still on the front of the peloton 5:45 behind. 


9km remaining from 177km

There's an intermediate sprint point here - not that it's of one iota of interest to anyone. The leaders lose a bit of ground and their advantage falls to 25 seconds. 


There's a short descent ahead of the final climb and then a left-hand turn. Given the narrow roads, positioning will be key. Here's a shot from our recon this morning. 



7km remaining from 177km

Back in the peloton, Orica-BikeExchange take it up. This sort of finale suits Esteban Chaves down to the ground, and the Colombian, third overall, has Chris Froome's second place in his sights. 


6km remaining from 177km

Sky take it up in the breakaway chase group. Konig and Gesink are probably the biggest favourites for stage honours so the onus is on their teammates with the two riders up the road. 


5km remaining from 177km

The speed picks up as we approach the climb. 


4km remaining from 177km

Cataldo and Frank swing onto the climb. 22 seconds is their advantage.


Orica lead the peloton's approach, with Quintana and his Movistar teammates next in line. 


Gesink takes it up in the second group, turning up the pace. 


3km remaining from 177km

Sbaragli attacks from the second group. Not his preferred terrain but the Di Data rider's giving it a good go. 

Cataldo and Frank still out in front with 17 seconds. 


3km remaining from 177km

Sbaragli is about to get swallowed up. 


Movistar hit the front of the peloton and there's a fight for position here as they approach the climb. 


The race leader's team hits it in pole position. The peloton has thinned considerably as only the key players take it up. 


2km remaining from 177km

Frank puts in a big acceleration and drops Cataldo. Can the Astana man find a way back?


Behind that duo, Pello Bilbao clips off the front but he's already panting and swaying. 


Cataldo is clawing his way back to Frank, who may be paying for that effort. They're still 20 seconds clear of their former breakaway companions.


2km remaining from 177km

Gesink goes now. 2km to go now and soon they'll turn onto the cement roads. 


Hermans and Mamykin clip off the front of the peloton. No GC fireworks yet.


Frank is pulling away from Cataldo once again. 


12 seconds for Frank with 1.7 to go. A long way to go on these sorts of gradients, though, as they ramp up to 20%.


Gesink and Konig are coming up to Cataldo.


Still no movement from the GC men. They're bunched together


Frank has a real fight on his hands here to hold on.


1km remaining from 177km

Flamme rouge for Frank. Gesink passes Cataldo behind but he has 15 seconds to close down. 


700 metre to go for Frank, and it looks like he's going to do this. 


Chaves attacks from the GC group!

Contador on the attack!


Frank goes wide round a devilish hairpin as he fights with his bike. He has over 10 seconds still with a few hundred metres to go. 

Quintana is calm as Contador has a small gap.


200 metres for Frank and he's going to hold on here. What a ride.


Quintana goes. Froome dropped!


Matthias Frank wins stage 17 of the Vuelta a España


Konig comes through for second, just a few seconds back. Gesink third. Bilbao fourth. 


In the GC group it's Quintana with Chaves and Contador. Froome fighting behind. 


Froome is clawing his way back here. 


Quintana looks over his shoulder and picks it up again. But Froome makes it over to Contador's wheel. 


Quintana, Contador, Chaves and Froome have a big lead over everyone else. 


Chaves goes for it now and Froome is immediately in trouble


Quintana takes Chaves' wheel, Contador just behind. Froome is a few seconds back.

Contador goes for it now as they come into the final 150 metres.


Froome is coming back!


Contador leads them over the line but there's nothing to separate that quartet.


Froome looked in difficulty but roared back in those final 100 metres to finish with the trio - just ahead of Chaves even.


Here's the top 10 on the stage


1 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling
2 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
4 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
5 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
6 José Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre - Merida
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek-Segafredo


What a performance from Frank, who produced a brilliant climb to take victory - all the more impressive when you consider the effort he had to put in by driving that two-man move in the 20 or so kilometres leading up to the climb.


That's another Grand Tour stage win for IAM, who had none before they announced, in May, that they are to fold at the end of the season...One at the Giro, one at the Tour and now two at the Vuelta. 


No change at the top of the GC, with the top 4 all finishing together.


1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 69:35:32
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:02


Mathias Frank gives a post-stage interview


"I’ve had a rough season, not much was working as I wanted – I had to abandon the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. So I came here and I told myself I want to have fun, get a good feeling back. To finally have a victory after more than two years, winning a Grand Tour stage, it’s just amazing."

One day closer to Madrid for Nairo Quintana, who's lead of 3:37 is undiminished.


He didn't allow Froome to land a psychological blow by gaining a small bit of time ahead of the stage 19 time trial - in fact it was the Sky man who was put under the most pressure once again. There's one summit finish left in this Vuelta and Quintana, provided he doesn't collapse in the time trial, has a pretty firm spot in the driving seat. 


General classification after stage 17

1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 69:35:32
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:06:03
6 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:34
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:08:12
8 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:08:13
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:28
10 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:08:52



There has been some movement lower down the top 10. 


Samuel Sanchez didn't climb as well as might have been expected, with Andrew Talanksy going over a minute quicker to move up into sixth place. Simon Yates is still fifth but is just under a mouinute further back on the 'big 4' than he was. Elsewhere, Michele Scarponi swaps places with David de la Cruz, demoting the Spaniard into 10th. 


Here's our stage report:



Vuelta a España: Mathias Frank wins stage 17


Here's what's on the menu tomorrow. Undulating terrain but there should be sufficient interest in a sprint. 



Bye for now


We'll be back tomorrow morning for full live coverage of stage 18. In the meantime you can keep an eye on for all the news and reaction from Spain. Thanks for joining.



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