Vuelta a Espana: Contador conquers the Angliru

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) took an emotional win atop the Angliru, soloing in to win Stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana.  It was his first win of the season, and the last of his professional career, as he brings down the curtain on his racing life with the final stage of the Vuelta to Madrid on Sunday evening. 

Team Sky's Wout Poels and Chris Froome followed him across the line 20 seconds down. Another strong performance by Froome saw him maintain his overall lead and set up his Tour de France-Vuelta a Espana double.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) suffered after crashing on a descent but recovered enough and limited his losses to keep his second place overall at 2:15. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) dropped back on the closing climb to lose his podium place, with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) moving up to third at 2:51. Contador’s escape and win moved him up to fourth overall at 3:11. with Kelderman fifth going into the final stage now at 3:15.

“There couldn’t be a better finish, winning on the Angliru, the end of my career, no way for a better end,” Contador said after the stage. “I knew the Cordal has had a lot of history, lots of falls, and knew I had to go with Pantano on the descent to make the gap.”

A large escape group got away early on the stage but started falling apart as soon as the climbing of the Angliru started. Contador and all the other top favourites stayed together for much of the stage but that favourites’ group shrank mightily as the steep climb began to hurt.

Finally, near the bottom of the Cordal descent - the penultimate climb of the 117.5km stage, with the Angliru approaching Contador took off with teammate Jarlinson Pantano. The Spaniard was soon on his own, passing all those leftover from the lead group. His gap over the Froome group was never much above a minute, but it was enough to give him a special victory ahead of Poels and Froome.

"Absolute incredible feeling," Froome said at the finish.

"And what a way to end such a massive three weeks of racing, having completed the Tour/Vuelta double, that’s an amazing feeling. Thanks to everyone for all of the support for the last few weeks. It was such a tough climb. We did everything we could to try and catch Alberto, and my congratulations to him, to finish his career like this is beautiful."

The most feared stage of the Vuelta

Rain greeted the riders at the start of the most-feared Vuelta stage, which opened with an immediate unranked climb and some serious attacks as the overall contenders saved themselves for the final climb to the exposed Angliru. 

After nine kilometres into the only 117km long stage, a large group got away, sparking a fast day of racing.

There were some very big names in the group: Julian Alaphilippe, Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), Nicolas Roche (BMC), Adam Yates, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Nelson Oliveira, Marc Soler (Movistar), Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Rui Costa, Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal), Tobias Ludvigsson (FDJ), Igor Antón (Dimension Data), Lluis Mas, Jaime Roson (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport).

However the peloton, and especially Trek-Segafredo, were reluctant to let this dangerous group go, and the gap was never more than 1:10. It was clear that Contador wanted to win. Fortunately, the rain had stopped, but the roads were still damp. Astana, seeing a chance to get Ilnur Zakarin on the final podium, joined in the lead work.

The gap rose to 1:30, but the break only had  1:20 with them as they started up the day’s first climb, the cat. 1 Alto de la Cobertoria. 8.1km long, the average gradient was 8.6 per cent, with sections of 18 per cent. The break shattered in the renewed rain as the climbing began. Behind them, the gap increased as Team Sky and Bahrain-Merida moved into the lead.

Marczynski led the way over the summit, with the field at 1:20. On the descent, he got away with Andersen and Soler, and they were soon joined by several others. Behind them, Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain-Merida teammates tried to get away from the by now greatly reduced field, but Team Sky quickly put an end to that idea.

Having reached the bottom of the descent, it was time to start going up again. This time it was the Alto del Cordal, with an average gradient of 8.6 per cent. Soler attacked out of the lead group with 25km to go but was soon joined again by Andersen, the Yates brothers, Marczynski, Bardet and Mas. They all struggled to stay together on the climb, with Bardet doing much of the lead work.

The favourites were only a minute behind, catching and passing those who had fallen out of the lead group. Zakarin had missed out on the group, and had to work his way up on the climb through the rain and team cars. The sun then put in another appearance, but the roads were still covered with water. Soler moved out to take the mountain points, but the leaders’ group was less than a minute back.

From the summit of the Cordal, there were only 21km left on the stage, but not one of them would be easy. The rain started again on the descent, and one race motorbike crashed into the guardrail. Soler sadly soon followed, as his front wheel slipped away. That left Marczynski in the lead.

Nibali also crashed on the descent too, and had to work his way back to the front, with the help of a teammate. David de la Cruz (Quick Step) also fell victim to the slick roads, and had to abandon the race, losing his chance of a top ten finish.

Once again the next climb started immediately, and this was no ordinary climb, but the much-feared Angliru. It was time for the final showdown.

Marczynski started the climb with about 18 seconds over Andersen. It would not be enough.

Contador's audacious attack

Behind Contador, Jarlinson Pantano and Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) took off from the favourite’s group, as Andersen dropped back to wait for Kelderman. The Contador group caught and passed the remains of the attackers and soon he was at the front of the race together with Mas, Soler, Marczynski, and Bardet, but the Froome group was only some 40 seconds back.

Marczynski was the next to drop back. Bahrain Merida moved to the head of the chase group of only some 12 riders, as the steep gradients started up.

Contador and Soler went into the “goat path” section of the Angliru together, but then Contador was suddenly alone at the head of things and facing the fight of his life.

He flew up the double-digit gradients of the climb, building up a lead of more than a minute on the Froome group. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was the first to go from the favourites’ group, and he rather easily pulled away. Nibali was there with teammate Franco Pellizotti but unable to attack Froome. 

Contador continued to grind his way up the 20 per cent gradient in the final kilometres, almost hidden by the massive crowds cheering him on.

Nibali had trouble on the final two kilometres, falling back from the Froome group, which also contained Kelderman and Zakarin. Froome and Wout Poels then took off in pursuit of Contador he still had a minute. Kelderman was the next one to fall back.

Visibly suffering, Contador made his way up to the slightly flatter final kilometre, pushing his gear with the final drops of strength. Froome was only 34 seconds back and suddenly became a threat. Froome and Poels flew up the mountain, but with 30 seconds to close at the final km marker, and a flatter course, Contador had no problem maintaining his slim lead and crossed the line letting off his Pistolero celebration salute.

The two Team Sky riders came in 17 seconds down, with Zakarin fourth at 35 seconds. Nibali was almost a minute down, with Kelderman losing significant time. The last climb of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana had lived up to expectation. Now only the celebrations in Madrid remain. 

Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo3:31:33
2Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky0:00:17
3Christopher Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 2 - Cell 2
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:00:35
5Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:00:51
6Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 5 - Cell 2
7Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 6 - Cell 2
8Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb0:01:11
9Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:25
10Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac0:01:36
11Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team0:01:46
12Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky0:02:15
13Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:03:16
14Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team0:03:43
15Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates0:03:56
16Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step FloorsRow 16 - Cell 2
18Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky0:04:12
20Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott0:04:18
21Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-Scott0:04:48
22Luis Angel Maté Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:04:54
23Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:05:23
24Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team0:05:45
25Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team0:06:29
26Koen Bouwman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:06:40
27Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team0:07:05
28Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:07:17
29Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) FDJRow 28 - Cell 2
30Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe0:07:33
31Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 30 - Cell 2
32Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates0:07:43
33Stefan Denifl (Aut) Aqua Blue Sport0:08:19
34Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:08:26
35Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal0:08:34
36Jaime Roson Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:08:47
37Hector Sáez Benito (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:09:16
38Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott0:09:35
39Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 38 - Cell 2
40Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:09:53
41Ricardo Vilela (Por) Manzana PostobonRow 40 - Cell 2
42Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:54
43Jeremy Maison (Fra) FDJ0:10:17
44David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team Sky0:10:54
45Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team EmiratesRow 44 - Cell 2
46Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo0:11:00
47Matej Mohoric (Slo) UAE Team Emirates0:11:23
48Hernán Aguirre (Col) Manzana Postobon0:11:28
49Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing Team0:11:57
50Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team0:11:58
51Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb0:12:52
52Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott0:13:11
53Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:13:23
54Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 53 - Cell 2
55Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott0:13:25
56Bernardo Suaza (Col) Manzana Postobon0:14:05
57Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb0:14:17
58Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ0:14:56
59Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team0:15:07
60Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 60 - Cell 2
62Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:15:15
63Aldemar Reyes (Col) Manzana PostobonRow 62 - Cell 2
64Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) FDJ0:16:07
65Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:16:47
66Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:16:50
67Anthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:17:10
68Floris De Tier (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:17:39
69Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:17:44
70Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Orica-Scott0:17:52
71Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-ScottRow 70 - Cell 2
72Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky0:17:59
73Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto SoudalRow 72 - Cell 2
74Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Aqua Blue SportRow 73 - Cell 2
75Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Dimension DataRow 74 - Cell 2
76Jetse Bol (Ned) Manzana PostobonRow 75 - Cell 2
77Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo0:18:33
78Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 77 - Cell 2
79Daan Olivier (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 78 - Cell 2
80Peter Koning (Ned) Aqua Blue SportRow 79 - Cell 2
81Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team0:18:35
82Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates0:19:06
83Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb0:19:23
84Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo0:19:26
85Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step FloorsRow 84 - Cell 2
86Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 85 - Cell 2
87Fernando Orjuela (Col) Manzana PostobonRow 86 - Cell 2
88Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) UAE Team Emirates0:19:44
89Clement Chevrier (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 88 - Cell 2
90Fabricio Ferrari (Uru) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:20:01
91Sergei Chernetckii (Rus) Astana Pro TeamRow 90 - Cell 2
92Diego Rubio (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:20:32
93Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:20:38
94Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin0:20:48
95Stef Clement (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:20:58
96Manuele Boaro (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:21:01
97Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension DataRow 96 - Cell 2
98Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:21:29
99Mark Christian (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport0:21:37
100Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:21:41
101Lluís Guillermo Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 100 - Cell 2
102Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:21:52
103Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:21:56
104Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) FDJRow 103 - Cell 2
105Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky0:22:05
106Eros Capecchi (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 105 - Cell 2
107Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 106 - Cell 2
108Remy Mertz (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:22:11
109Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:22:41
110Rafael Reis (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:22:43
111Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 110 - Cell 2
112Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 111 - Cell 2
113Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ0:22:46
114Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 113 - Cell 2
115Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 114 - Cell 2
116Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step FloorsRow 115 - Cell 2
117Federico Zurlo (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 116 - Cell 2
118Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin0:22:57
119Juan Felipe Osorio (Col) Manzana PostobonRow 118 - Cell 2
120Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:23:01
121Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 120 - Cell 2
122Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-Merida0:23:27
123Antonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 122 - Cell 2
124Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb0:23:31
125Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:24:01
126Toms Skujins (Lat) Cannondale-Drapac0:24:50
127Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-DrapacRow 126 - Cell 2
128Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale0:25:06
129Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:25:13
130Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 129 - Cell 2
131Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 130 - Cell 2
132Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Trek-Segafredo0:25:17
133William Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac0:25:32
134Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac0:25:33
135Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale-DrapacRow 134 - Cell 2
136Aaron Gate (NZl) Aqua Blue Sport0:25:42
137Thomas Scully (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac0:25:56
138Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-DrapacRow 137 - Cell 2
139Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJRow 138 - Cell 2
140Magnus Cort (Den) Orica-ScottRow 139 - Cell 2
141Hernando Bohórquez (Col) Manzana PostobonRow 140 - Cell 2
142Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:26:09
143Lachlan Morton (Aus) Dimension Data0:26:27
144Conor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue SportRow 143 - Cell 2
145Rein Taaramäe (Est) Katusha-AlpecinRow 144 - Cell 2
146Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky0:26:29
147Michael Mørkøv (Den) Katusha-Alpecin0:26:40
148Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 147 - Cell 2
149Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 148 - Cell 2
150Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 149 - Cell 2
151Sebastián Molano (Col) Manzana PostobonRow 150 - Cell 2
152Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 151 - Cell 2
153Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 152 - Cell 2
154Juan José Lobato (Spa) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 153 - Cell 2
155David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 154 - Cell 2
156Joe Dombrowski (USA) Cannondale-Drapac0:26:44
157Michel Kreder (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport0:26:48
158Adam Blythe (GBr) Aqua Blue SportRow 157 - Cell 2
159Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:27:24
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Sprint 1 - Pola De Lena. 89.5 Km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb4pts
2Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Finish Line Points
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo25pts
2Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky20Row 1 - Cell 3
3Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky16Row 2 - Cell 3
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin14Row 3 - Cell 3
5Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida12Row 4 - Cell 3
6Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida10Row 5 - Cell 3
7Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo9Row 6 - Cell 3
8Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb8Row 7 - Cell 3
9Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale7Row 8 - Cell 3
10Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac6Row 9 - Cell 3
11Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team5Row 10 - Cell 3
12Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky4Row 11 - Cell 3
13Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky3Row 12 - Cell 3
14Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team2Row 13 - Cell 3
15Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates1Row 14 - Cell 3
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KOM 1 - Alto De La Cobertoria. - 79.5 Km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal10pts
2Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates6Row 1 - Cell 3
3Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors4Row 2 - Cell 3
4Stefan Denifl (Aut) Aqua Blue Sport2Row 3 - Cell 3
5Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe1Row 4 - Cell 3
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KOM 2 - Alto Del Cordal. - 96.4 Km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team10pts
2Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) L