Vuelta a España: Woods victorious on Balcón de Bizkaia

Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) won stage 17 of the Vuelta a España atop Alto del Balcón de Bizkaia, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) suffered a seemingly critical blow to his chances of overall victory in the Basque Country. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) retains the red jersey, but Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) signalled his intentions by reducing the Briton’s lead to 25 seconds.

Woods was part of the large, day-long break that fought out the stage win on the final climb, and the Canadian entered the mist-shrouded closing kilometre in a group with Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), David de la Cruz (Team Sky) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Woods launched his first attack with a little under 800 metres to go, and then kicked once again after Teuns had responded to that move with an acceleration of his own. As the gradient reared up to 18 per cent, Woods managed to edge his way clear, and though Teuns would stalk him to the line, the EF-Drapac rider held on to claim stage victory by five seconds. De la Cruz took third at 10 seconds, with Majka a further three seconds back in fourth.

“It's hard to describe, I won, there were so many people on the side of the road screaming. My directeur Juanma was on the radio and he said, 'Do this for your family,'” Woods said afterwards. “My wife and I, my wife had a stillbirth two months ago. We lost the little guy, his name was Hunter. The whole time I was going up the climb I was thinking of him I wanted to win so bad for him and I did.”

The 26-man break – which also included Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) – reached the base of the steep final climb with a lead of four minutes over the bunch, meaning that the day was neatly broken into two distinct races within a race. Up ahead, Woods won a keenly contested fight for stage honours. Behind, the battle for the general classification was no less intense.

Astana set a fierce tempo at the base of the 7km ascent in support of Miguel Angel Lopez, and even before the Colombian’s inevitable acceleration, Pello Bilbao’s stint of pace-making had distanced Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac). Midway up the climb, Valverde launched a rasping attack, with Adam Yates leading the response on behalf of his brother Simon. The Briton then took over on the front of the group, and his stinging pace saw Quintana lose contact.

Quintana initially battled to remain within sight of his rivals, but his pedalling was increasingly leaden, and the gap yawned open as the road narrowed and the gradient stiffened in the final 3km. An attack from Lopez inside the final 2km stretched that gap still further.

Lopez’s telegraphed acceleration failed to discommode Yates, however, as the Briton was promptly onto his wheel. As the dwindling red jersey group reached the searing gradients in the final kilometre, Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Valverde showed themselves to be the strongmen of the group. They emerged from the gloom to cross the line 2:40 down on Woods, while Yates came home eight seconds behind them with Lopez in his wake.

After his travails earlier on the climb, Quintana finished on a note of defiance, accelerating to catch Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) at the line, but he still came in 3:44 down on the stage and more than a minute behind his teammate Valverde. In the overall standings, Quintana is now sixth at 2:11, his hopes of Vuelta victory seemingly over.

“I just didn't have any strength,” Quintana admitted. “I lost time today, but the important thing is Alejandro is still there."

Valverde lies second overall, 25 seconds behind Yates, while Mas moves up to third at 1:22. Lopez is fourth at 1:36, with Kruijswijk a further 12 seconds back in fifth. It was a trying day for Pinot, who dropped to ninth overall, 5:31 off the pace. Yates lost some ground to Valverde, but the gains he made elsewhere meant that he was satisfied with his day’s work.

“Of course, I would have liked not to have lost time, but those two guys in front of me were very strong there in the final,” Yates said. “I did a good ride and I'm happy with what I did. Adam was there with me for the entire climb, he did a really good job. Today was the day I was most worried about, so I'm happy to have it over with.”

How it unfolded

While the GC battle would ultimately be focused on the stiff final climb to Balcon de Bizkaia, the day’s opening difficulty, the Alto de la Arboleda, proved pivotal to the fight for stage victory. After a flurry of attacks on the climb, a break of 26 riders forged its way clear, with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) among their number.

The 2010 Vuelta winner was joined in the move by Alexandre Geniez (AG2R-La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi, Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team), Rafal Majka, Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Amador (Movistar Team), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Dimension Data), Simon Clarke, Michael Woods (Education First-Drapac), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), David De La Cruz, Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky), Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Cristian Rodríguez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jesus Herrada, Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida), Pieter Serry (Quick-Step Floors), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Jose Mendes (Burgos-BH).

Only three teams – Groupama-FDJ, Mitchelton-Scott and LottoNL-Jumbo – were not represented in the break, which meant the escapees were always likely to be handed considerable freedom. De Gendt led them over the top of the Arboleda and over the other side, they steadily stretched their lead out to eight minutes.

De Gendt’s stint in the break on the rugged terrain of the Basque Country was enough to put him into the king of the mountains as he led the break over each of the day’s five ascents ahead of the concluding haul to the finish. Mitchelton-Scott were more than happy to grant the break its freedom, and it was only when Astana took up the reins in the final hour of racing that the gap began to come down with any urgency.

The run-in to the final climb saw Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) crash in the main peloton on a sweeping descent, but though bloodied and bruised, the Italian quickly remounted. Up ahead, Simon Clarke was the first of the escapees to attack on the Alto del Balcón de Bizkaia, and after he was brought back, Alessandro De Marchi stretched things out on behalf of his BMC teammate Teuns.

The upper reaches of the climb proved decisive, however, as De la Cruz produced a spell of forcing that saw all bar Woods, Majka and Teuns distanced. That quartet led into the final 2km, and with a shade over a kilometre to go, De la Cruz underlined his strength with a determined attack, but he would pay a price for that effort in the final kilometre, as Woods emerged from the mist to claim the honours.

 

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale4:09:48
2Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:05
3David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky0:00:10
4Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:13
5Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:00:38
6Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:00:44
7Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data0:00:48
8Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:00:51
9Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb0:00:55
10Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:01:48
11Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 10 - Cell 2
12Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data0:01:51
13Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky0:01:57
14Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors0:02:40
15Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 14 - Cell 2
16Hector Saez Benito (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:02:44
17Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott0:02:48
18Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team0:02:50
19Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team0:02:52
20Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:02:53
21Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott0:03:08
22Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:03:44
23Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar TeamRow 22 - Cell 2
24Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:03:53
25Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:04:09
26Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:10
27Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:20
28Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:04:33
29Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb0:04:55
30Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:05:17
31Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team0:05:22
32Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:05:26
33Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 32 - Cell 2
34Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 33 - Cell 2
35Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team0:05:30
36Igor Anton (Spa) Dimension Data0:05:41
37Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:05:48
38Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team0:06:06
39José Mendes (Por) Burgos BH0:06:17
40Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:06:19
41Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:06:30
42Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:06:40
43Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:07:20
44Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:07:34
45Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:07:37
46Daniel Moreno (Spa) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:07:45
47Jorge Cubero Galvez (Spa) Burgos BH0:08:26
48Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:08:28
49Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:08:45
50Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:09:04
51Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 50 - Cell 2
52Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 51 - Cell 2
53Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:09:39
54Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-MuriasRow 53 - Cell 2
55Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data0:10:48
56Sergio Henao (Col) Team SkyRow 55 - Cell 2
57Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:10:50
58Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 57 - Cell 2
59Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 58 - Cell 2
60Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:10:55
61Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:11:20
62Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin0:11:24
63Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida0:11:30
64Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team SunwebRow 63 - Cell 2
65Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 64 - Cell 2
66Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team0:11:56
67Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA0:11:57
68Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale0:12:10
69Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo0:12:31
70Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:13:19
71Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:13:26
72Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana Pro TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:13:29
74Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team0:13:36
75Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar TeamRow 74 - Cell 2
76Pablo Torres Muiño (Spa) Burgos BHRow 75 - Cell 2
77Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha-AlpecinRow 76 - Cell 2
78Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team SunwebRow 77 - Cell 2
79Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 78 - Cell 2
80George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo0:14:00
81Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:14:03
82Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:14:12
83Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates0:14:14
84Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 83 - Cell 2
85Edward Ravasi (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 84 - Cell 2
86Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb0:14:33
87Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky0:16:59
88Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:17:17
89Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 88 - Cell 2
90Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 89 - Cell 2
91Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:18:18
92Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb0:18:30
93Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team SunwebRow 92 - Cell 2
94Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar Team0:18:37
95Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:18:46
96Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-Scott0:19:48
97Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 96 - Cell 2
98Léo Vincent (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 97 - Cell 2
99Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Antonio Molina Canet (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 99 - Cell 2
101Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 100 - Cell 2
102Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos BHRow 101 - Cell 2
103Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team EmiratesRow 102 - Cell 2
104Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:20:13
105Aritz Bagues Kalparsoro (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:20:27
106Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 105 - Cell 2
107Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:20:59
108Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:21:14
109Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:21:19
110Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:21:35
111Jesus Ezquerra Muela (Spa) Burgos BH0:22:12
112Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-Segafredo0:22:17
113Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:22:34
114Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team0:22:36
115Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 114 - Cell 2
116Mickael Delage (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:22:41
117Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJRow 116 - Cell 2
118Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:22:44
119Joey Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 118 - Cell 2
120Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott0:22:58
121Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 120 - Cell 2
122Loic Chetout (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:23:02
123Diego Rubio Hernandez (Spa) Burgos BH0:23:15
124Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:23:19
125Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:23:34
126Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension DataRow 125 - Cell 2
127Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 126 - Cell 2
128Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:24:03
129Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 128 - Cell 2
130Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 129 - Cell 2
131Nelson Andres Soto Martinez (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 130 - Cell 2
132Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 131 - Cell 2
133Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 132 - Cell 2
134Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 133 - Cell 2
135Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 134 - Cell 2
136Sepp Kuss (USA) LottoNL-JumboRow 135 - Cell 2
137Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 136 - Cell 2
138Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-SegafredoRow 137 - Cell 2
139Ian Boswell (USA) Katusha-AlpecinRow 138 - Cell 2
140Jetse Bol (Ned) Burgos BHRow 139 - Cell 2
141Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 140 - Cell 2
142Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension DataRow 141 - Cell 2
143Lars Boom (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:24:11
144Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension DataRow 143 - Cell 2
145Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-HansgroheRow 144 - Cell 2
146Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias0:24:17
147Benjamin Thomas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:24:25
148Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step FloorsRow 147 - Cell 2
149Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:24:29
150Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 149 - Cell 2
151Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:24:36
152Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe0:24:44
153Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 152 - Cell 2
154Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension DataRow 153 - Cell 2
155Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-AlpecinRow 154 - Cell 2
156Max Walscheid (Ger) Team SunwebRow 155 - Cell 2
157Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-ScottRow 156 - Cell 2
158Thomas Leezer (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:24:52
159Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step Floors0:25:30
160Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 159 - Cell 2
161Alex Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:25:33
162Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo0:26:36
DNSRohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFMark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain-MeridaRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFJordi Simon Casulleras (Spa) Burgos BHRow 164 - Cell 2
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Sprint 1 - Bilbao - 48.7 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team4pts
2Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Finish - Alto del Balcón de Bizkaia - 157 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale25pts
2Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team20Row 1 - Cell 3
3David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky16Row 2 - Cell 3
4Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe14Row 3 - Cell 3
5Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin12Row 4 - Cell 3
6Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team10Row 5 - Cell 3
7Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data9Row 6 - Cell 3
8Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits8Row 7 - Cell 3
9Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb7Row 8 - Cell 3
10Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida6Row 9 - Cell 3
11Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits5Row 10 - Cell 3
12Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data4Row 11 - Cell 3
13Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky3Row 12 - Cell 3
14Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors2Row 13 - Cell 3
15Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team1Row 14 - Cell 3
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Mountain 1 - Alto de la Arboleda - 16.7 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal3pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Mountain 2 - Alto de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe - 85.2 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal3pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Mountain 3 - Alto del Balcón de Bizkaia - 120.6 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal5pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Mountain 4 - Alto de Santa Eufemia - 136.2 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal3pts
2Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida1Row 2 - Cell 3
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Mountain 5 - Alto de Gontzegaraine - 147.1 km
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal3pts
2Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team2Row 1 - Cell 3
3Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo1Row 2 - Cell 3
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