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Vuelta a Espana 2017: Stage 14


The peloton rolls out from the start in Ecija at 12.37 local time and is due to reach kilometre zero shortly before 1pm. There are three categorised climbs on today's route, but even allowing for the possibility of ambushes, it seems clear that the final haul to La Pandera will be decisive.  

La Pandera first appeared on the Vuelta route in 2002, when Roberto Heras claimed stage honours, and returned four years later when Andrey Kashechkin crossed the line first ahead of his Astana teammate and race leader Alexandre Vinokourov. The Vuelta's last visit was in 2009, when Damiano Cunego was first to the top. Alasdair Fotheringham has been on hand for each of the Vuelta's visits to La Pandera, and he previews the action here.

As the peloton negotiates the neutralised zone, here is a reminder of the state of play atop the overall standings as the Vuelta reaches its third weekend:

The temperature is some 32 degrees Celsius in Ecija at the start, which is only to be expected in Andalusia at this time of year. It's a relatively gentle beginning to proceedings in terms of terrain this afternoon, even if the peloton will be gradually gaining in altitude throughout the day. The first classified climb comes midway through the stage. but the category 3 Puerto El Mojón (8.8km at 3.7%) won't trouble the GC men. The category 2 Puerto Locubin (8.5km at 4.8%) serves as something of a palate cleanser ahead of the main event, the final haul to the finish at La Pandera. The hors categorie ascent is 12 kilometres long at an average gradient of 7.3%, and has pitches of 13% close to the summit.

One abandon to report before the start today: Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale) has withdrawn from the Vuelta, leaving 172 riders in the race.

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The start was delayed slightly to allow David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) to re-join after a puncture in the neutralised zone. There has been the usual flurry of attacks once the flag dropped at kilometre zero, though no move has established itself just yet.

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And at that, a break finally looks like being allowed to sally clear. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) is among those present, along with former world champion Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates).

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Luis Mate is the highest-placed rider on GC, some 38 minutes down on Froome, so this group should be granted considerable freedom here. The Vuelta's trek through the deep south was never going to pass by without an attack from Mate, the so-called Andalusian Lynx. 

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Chris Froome's Vuelta challenge was irreparably damaged on the corresponding weekend a year ago, and tomorrow's short, sharp leg to Sierra Nevada bears more than a few similarities to last year's breathless stage to Formigal, where Alberto Contador effectively won the race... for Nairo Quintana. Speaking yesterday, however, Froome dismissed the idea that he and his Sky team would be caught out once again. "I'm not afraid of a Formigal situation repeating itself," Froome insisted. "I'm here with a very different team this year, and we're in the leader's jersey which is different to Formigal, too. I find it difficult to imagine that kind of situation arising again." Time will tell... For now, the weekend is running according to the anticipated script.

There's no rider from Quick-Step Floors in the break today, but then again, the team can surely already consider its Vuelta a success, having snared five of the 13 stages thus far. Cyclingnews blogger Matteo Trentin claimed his third win on the Vuelta yesterday in Tomares with a well-timed sprint. Trentin also holds the green jersey, though he is aware that with so many mountain stages to come in week three, his grip on the tunic is a loose one. "Nothing is impossible," he said. "But it's going to be super hard to defend the green jersey all the way to Madrid. There are only mountain stages and a time trial remaining from here to Madrid, a lot of points on offer, and to be honest there is maybe one stage on the way where I can maybe go in the breakaway." Alasdair Fotheringham has the fully story here

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Away from the Vuelta, Evan Huffman claimed the honours on the opening stage of the Tour of Alberta, which took place in the vast confines of Jasper National Park yesterday. A race report,including a fine gallery of pictures from Jonathan Devich is here, Pat Malach has all the news from Canada, and you can watch video highlights here.

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Sam Oomen (Sunweb) has abandoned the Vuelta a Espana. The Dutchman began the day in 13th place overall, but was suffering from illness before the start and Dutch newspaper AD reported that his goal for the stage was simply to make it to the finish. It's a disappointing end to his Grand Tour debut, but the 22-year-old is a rider of outstanding promise, as he showed in the opening two weeks up to this point.

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Sky remain on the front of the peloton, with delegations from Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo lined up behind them. Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are in conversation as they sit in the wheels.

The Puerto El Mojon is a gentle climb and though the pace is quite brisk, nobody seems to unduly troubled at this juncture.

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Ian Stannard (Sky) leads the bunch towards the summit of Puerto El Mojon, some 7:27 down on the ten leaders.

In truth, all is quiet on the Andalusian front for the time being. TVE's camera crew entertain themselves by dropping back through the convoy of team cars and catching various directeurs sportifs in the act of eating ice creams behind the steering wheel. 

The Sky-led peloton trails the ten escapees by 7:35 over the summit of Puerto El Mojon.

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Villella makes his way back up to Clarke et al, but Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) has sat up and seems ready to drop back to the peloton.

The break grinds against a long, long false flat. Bahrain-Merida, Trek and Astana remain at the head of the peloton, 4:35 down.

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The peloton is strung out into a long line as Bahrain-Merida, Trek and Astana maintain the pressure on the front, and some riders are beginning to let gaps open at the rear.

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Trek lead the bunch through the intermediate sprint precisely 4 minutes down on the escapees. The speed continues to ratchet upwards in the peloton.

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Zakarin lies 6th overall, 2:25 down on Froome, but just 12 seconds shy of a podium berth. The Russian has a habit of improving in the third week of a Grand Tour and he will expect to improve his position come Madrid. 

Villella, Vilela and the rest of the break hit the lower slopes of the Puerto Locubin with a lead just shy of three minutes over the peloton.

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Stefan Denifl and Ricardo Vilela are deposited out the back of the break following Konrad's attack. Katusha's chasing, meanwhile, has brought the peloton to within 2:18 of the escapees.

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And then there were five. Simon Clarke has lost contact with the leading group, which has just over two minutes in hand on the bunch as they close to within 1500 metres of the summit.

Sky take up the reins from Katusha at the head of the peloton. Almost immediately, Marc Soler (Movistar) springs into action and attacks from the bunch. The Spanish youngster opens a small gap and begins to pick off the remnants of the break. He rides past Denifl and sets out in pursuit of Vilela.

Soler has 25 seconds in hand on the peloton, but 1:50 to make up on the five leaders as he beats a path towards the top of the climb.

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Salvatore Puccio leads the way for Team Sky on the way down this descent ahead of the final ascent. Up ahead, Rui Costa pushes on the pace in the five-man leading group.

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Villella is swept up by the peloton, which has also caught Soler. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) takes over at the front of the bunch, with Quick-Step's Mas and De La Cruz on his wheel. Froome is just behind them in the midst of a group of Sky riders. There are 40 riders or so left in this red jersey group.

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Still Luis Leon Sanchez leads the way for Astana. The steep segments nearer the top seem well suited to his leader Fabio Aru, though there are question marks over the Sardinian's form.

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The stiffening gradient takes a toll on those struggling at the rear of the red jersey group. Bob Jungels is among those jettisoned out the back.

Pello Bilbao takes up the reins for Astana. Miguel Angel Lopez is also in this group for Astana, of course, and the Colombian is on the hunt for a second stage win.

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Simon Yates is distanced from the back of the red jersey group, as Fabio Aru now drops towards the very rear of the group. Yet his teammate Bilbao continues to force the pace on the front for Astana...

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Aru is tucked in at the back of the red jersey group with Bardet and Zakarin. Bilbao still sets the tempo in front. There are perhaps fewer than 20 riders remaining in this red jersey group.

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Wout Poels leads the red jersey group for Team Sky. There are 15 or so riders in this group, including Contador, Nibali, Chaves, De Le Cruz, Aru, Lopez, Woods, Zakarin, Roche and van Garderen.

The Froome group hoovers up a flagging Rui Costa. Only Majka remains in front, 1:22 clear of the red jersey group.

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Esteban Chaves is the next to attack. He bobs clear on the steepest section and bridges up to Bardet and Carapaz.

Chaves moves past Bardet and Carapaz. Contador rips clear of the red jersey group, bobbing from side to side, and tries to forge his way up to Chaves.

Vincenzo Nibali joins the attacking. The Sicilian bridges across to Chavez, Carapaz and Contador. This quartet has a gap of around 30 metres over the reduced red jersey group. Bardet has dropped back.

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Nibali and Contador have stretched out their advantage over Chaves and Carapaz, who have dropped back to the reduced Froome group, which also contains Lopez and Kelderman.

Froome comes to the front of the red jersey group and begins to close the gap to Contador and Nibali...

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Froome and Lopez catch Contador and Nibali. Almost immediately Lopez puts in a dig, but Contador, Nibali and Froome can all follow. They are 39 seconds down on Majka...

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Kelderman attacks just as the road dips slightly. Lopez responds and then tacks on an acceleration of his own as the gradient bites again. The Colombian is alone in second on the road.

Lopez is eating into Majka's lead. The Pole is beginning to show visible signs of suffering, and is very clearly riding more slowly than Lopez, who is just 35 seconds down...

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The gradient slackens in the final kilometre and Majka should have enough to hold on for stage victory despite Lopez's forceful pursuit...

Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) wins stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana at La Pandera.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) takes second place at 26 seconds.

Nibali nabs third place just behind Lopez. The Sicilian picks up the final bonus seconds ahead of Froome, who takes fourth.

Contador lost around 5 seconds to Froome in the final kick to the line, but Chaves conceded 20 seconds or so. Fabio Aru and Michael Woods came in after Chaves, while van Garderen seems to have lost about a minute to the Froome-Nibali group, though we await confirmation of the stage results.

No doubt about the stage winner. Rafal Majka was full value for his victory after infiltrating the early break and then holding off Lopez's fierce pursuit. Froome will retain the red jersey, with a very slightly reduced lead over Nibali. He gained more ground on Chaves, however.


Tejay van Garderen finished 1:43 down, while Nicolas Roche came in 2:15 behind.

In the overall standings, Froome's lead over Nibali is down to 55 seconds. Wilco Kelderman moves up to third overall, 2:17 down. Zakarin has also moved ahead of Chaves, who drops to 5th.

General classification:

General classification:

Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) speaks: "I feel great, really. I crashed at the Tour but I was second in Poland, and I came to the Vuelta aiming for GC. But then I was sick in the first days and I almost went home. Now I’m just so happy, not because I won but for my teammates. They trusted in me and did a great job. I was very confident. I had good legs, and Patrick Konrad did a really good job with me in the break. Then I knew at 10 k to go that I needed to go at full gas. It was like a time trial from there."



Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures are available here, and our man in Andalusia Alasdair Fotheringham will have all the reaction from La Pandera. And, as ever, we'll be back with more live coverage from tomorrow's short and potentially pivotal leg to Sierra Nevada.

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