The last mountain stage, the last stage (barring crashes or DNFs) that the final podium could change, the penultimate race day of the 2020 Vuelta and the men’s pro cycling season. We expected fireworks and in a way we got them, although it felt like a slow nervous breakdown watching the final 3km of the GC race. But up ahead, FDJ’s David Gaudu took another Vuelta stage, with NTT’s Gino Mader and Ion Izagirre (Astana) second and third in the stage. Ineos’s Richard Carapaz had one more roll of the dice, which resulted in the most nail-biting three kilometres since … the Giro! With Primoz Roglic alone, under pressure and not looking his effervescent self, the fear was that he was going to lose another Grand Tour (in the same season!) on the penultimate stage. But he dug deep, rode on fumes and mental strength, and limited his losses to save the red jersey for Madrid.
First, the stage winner
It started with a massive break – over 30 riders, including David Gaudu as well as a few riders from Movistar and Jumbo-Visma (but no Ineos). The Bees gave the break about 3min but hardly any more, until Movistar took the front of the peloton at 60km to go, shredding the time gap and ruthlessly whittling the red jersey group down. Then it really kicked off.
Marc Soler was on a mission and he was chewing up the road. He rendezvoused with teammate Imanol Erviti and they scorched up to the break.
The final climb came after a spot of cobbledy goodness …
And this is what they were facing.
Soler ultimately had to drop back as he couldn’t keep the blistering pace and Gaudu went out on his own and was not seen again. But Soler had another job to do and he drifted back to what was a red jersey group of about 5 riders, including his teammate Enric Mas.
David Gaudu took his second stage victory in this year’s Vuelta and has cemented his reputation as a rider to be reckoned with. And perhaps FDJ’s next great hope?
Carapaz takes off
Richard Carapaz started the day in Primoz Roglic’s green jersey and 45 seconds behind him. What would he do? He was alone on the final climb – other than Andrey Amador, let’s face it, the Ineos team wasn’t a lot of use to him when the race got serious. But today even Amador failed to keep up. So with just over 3km to go, Carapaz saw that Roglic was isolated and he took off like a shot.
Luckily for Roglic, having Lennard Hofstede in the break came in handy and he had a bit of support when he needed it most. Then Soler dropped back to help Mas and they both helped Roglic minimise his losses. But the time was coming down fast – Roglic’s 45sec cushion started to become threadbare as Carapaz stormed to the finish line.
Carapaz made up only 21sec, leaving Roglic in red for the ride into Madrid. But it gave the fans a nail-biter of a finish.
Roglic goes into red one way and nearly out the other
Unfortunately for Roglic, Kuss fell away around the 6km mark to the finish.
Kuss, Hofstede, Soler, Mas – the domestiques who helped Roglic hold the jersey? What was it about Movistar’s performance today?
If anyone hasn’t seen the Netflix documentary of Movistar’s 2019 Tour de France, you should watch it immediately. It might just fill in some of the blanks about Movistar’s performance in the final few kilometres.
Richard Carapaz was a diplomat with the support that leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) received from his former Movistar team by stating that “he has no comment. Everyone seeks their interests. They would have their interests and I have no comment.”
Most people in our timeline were willing Roglic to hold red – not necessarily because they liked Roglic more than Carapaz but that seeing a rider of his calibre lose two grand tours in the same year would have been unbearable.
No matter what Movistar might think, Carapaz has always struck me as a rather lovely guy and he took the day’s results in his stride. The moment when Roglic rode up to shake his hand after the stage was another example of the Slovenian’s sincere sportsmanship. The man shows grace in both victory and defeat.
Quite a final result for Hugh Carthy and EF.
I’m not sure you can pick a cyclist of the year as it’s been so strange.
Dan Martin also had a very good showing in this year’s Vuelta, coming in fourth on the final podium.
Forward and back
Stage 17 Results
1 David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) 4:54:32
2 Gino Mader (NTT) +0:28
3 Ion Izagirre (Astana) +1:05
4 David De La Cruz (UAE) same time
5 Mark Donovan (Team Sunweb) +1:53
GC Top Ten
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) 69:17:59
2 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +0:24
3 Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) +0:47
4 Dan Martin (Israel Start Up) +2:43
5 Enric Mas (Movistar) + 3:36
6 Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren) +7:16
7 David de la Cruz (UAE-Team Emirates) +7:35
8 David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +7:45
9 Felix Grossschartner (BORA-hansgrohe) +8:15
10 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +9:34
All the Jerseys
Leader’s jersey Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
King of the Mountains Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)
Best Young Rider Enric Mas (Movistar)
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Official race website: Vuelta a Espana
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