It was described as the path to Hell and considered one of the steepest roads ever to be included in the race – the final climb of Stage 17 of Vuelta a Espana was the most brutal yet of this year’s race.
Matias Frank of IAM Cycling won the stage, a stunning solo victory after prying free of fellow breakaway riders Leopold Konig of Team Sky and Robert Gesink of Lotto NL Jumbo.
With a 20% gradient, the final 4km was too steep for any serious attacks. But it was no match for a relentless Alberto Contador, the Spaniard continuing his daily display of gritted determination to make the podium.
The Brutal Final Climb
Hitting the final climb with gusto, Contador led Nairo Quintana and OBE’s Esteban Chaves before being caught by the Colombian climbers.
Froome trailed the group but managed to catch them just metres from the line at Mas de la Costa. Like Contador, he refuses to give in. Froome will be pinning his hopes on Friday’s Individual Time Trial then Saturday’s final mountain stage to complete his dream of winning his second Grand Tour of 2016.
Tonight’s Stage 18 of the race is relatively flat, one for the sprinters. Riders will also be looking ahead to Stage 19’s 37km Individual Time Trial – another flat one – prior to a final hit-out in the mountains for Stage 20.
Nairo Quintana retains his overall lead in the race, more than 3-minutes ahead of Chris Froome of Team Sky. OBE’s Esteban Chaves is third just 20 seconds behind Froome, and Alberto Contador holds 4th, just 5 seconds back.
La Vuelta General Classification after Stage 17
1. QUINTANA Nairo 69h 35′ 32”
2. FROOME Chris +3′ 37”
3. CHAVES Esteban 3′ 57”
4. CONTADOR Alberto 4′ 02”
5. YATES Simon 6′ 03”