Alexey Lutsenko powered up the first summit finish of La Vuelta 2017 to take his maiden Grand Tour victory. The Kazakh rider attacked from the gun and dominated the 17-man break for a scintillating solo win ahead of Merhawi Kudus and Marc Soler. Behind, race leader Chris Froome attacked the group of favourites to retain the red jersey and further distance himself from his rivals. He now leads Tejay van Garderen by 10 seconds, with Esteban Chaves in third, 11 seconds back.
Rider of the Race
Today’s win was the biggest of Alexey Lutsenko’s career. In only his second Vuelta, our Rider of the Race is a former under-23 world road race champion and this is his first-ever grand tour victory – and was also awarded Most Combative. Part of the 17-man break which formed early on in today’s stage, the 24-year-old Kazakh didn’t show his hand until after the final cat 2 climb when the advantage back to the peloton was around five minutes.
Initially, it was Marco Haller who attacked and went clear on the descent of the penultimate climb, Alto de la Serratella, with 42km to go. Matej Mohoric and Lutsenko joined in the pursuit and eventually caught Haller. The trio worked together before Mohoric was dropped. Lutsenko rode strongly on the front as some of the other breakaway riders fought to get back on terms with them but the duo managed to maintain a workable advantage. Finally, Lutsenko left Haller at the foot of the final climb and smoothly powered up the short, (very) sharp climb in the big ring to confidently solo across the finish line well ahead of his pursuers.
Post-race, Lutsenko explained:
In 2014 I did my first Vuelta and managed to get a second place, but this is the biggest win of my career, no doubt.
It was very hard before the final climb, and we were a bit alone out there. Into the headwind we knew it would be tough, especially with lots of guys chasing behind. In the end it was a great stage for me, and I want to thank my teammates.
I crashed at the Tour de France, and it was hard, but the team supported me, and at home I carried on training, restarted quietly and have been feeling better and better, and here I am.
Quickstepper of the day award
Julian ‘Angryphilippe’ was part of today’s 17-man break and was instrumental in organising the chasing group on the descent of the penultimate climb, trying desperately to get back on terms with stage winner Lutsenko. But he just ran out of steam on the last short, sharp ascension and finished seventh. Nonetheless, he picks up today’s award.
What does this mean for GC?
The GC is slowly taking shape. When Chris Froome accelerated on the final climb, only a select group of riders could follow: Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) and a (thankfully) revitalised Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), who led the quartet across the finish line. A number of riders were distanced, including Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), who lost 26 seconds on the climb and now sits sixth on GC at 36 seconds. His compatriot Fabio Aru (Astana) lost 11 seconds, while Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) lost 49 seconds. So, to quote Andrew Hood of Velonews: “Chaves looking sharp; Woods looks primed to win a stage; Froome looks primed to win Vuelta; fight is on for podium.”
Top 5 stage
1 Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) 4:24:58
2 Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data) +0:42
3 Marc Soler (Movistar) +0:56
4 Matej Mohoric (UAE Emirates) +1:11
5 Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:24
Top 5 GC
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 18:07:10
2 Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:10
3 Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) +0:11
4 Nicolas Roche (BMC) +0:13
5 David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) +0:23
All the jerseys
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points: Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM: Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac)
Combined: Chris Froome (Sky)
Team Classification: Astana
Most Aggressive Rider: Alexey Lutsenko (Astana)
Header image: Alexey Lutsenko ©GETTY/Corbis Sport/Tim de Waele