La Vuelta | Stage 17
Uninterrupted Coverage, Sequeros – Alto de la Covatilla (175.8km)
Roglic secures the red jersey
He finishes 24 seconds up on Carapaz in the end. Carthy is another 20-or-so seconds further down. That confirms the podium is unchanged from this morning, but oh boy it was a close-run thing.
The top five on the stage was:
1. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
2. Gino Mäder (NTT), +28''
3. Ion Izagirre (Astana), +1'05''
4. David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates), +1'05''
5. Mark Donovan (Sunweb), +1'53''
Roglic saves it!
That was phenomenal. He crosses the lines just 25 seconds down on Carapaz.
Absolutely no emotion from the Slovenian. The soigneur greeting him at the line celebrates, but Roglic himself is almost completely impassive as he congratulates Carapaz.
Carapaz is over the line.
He crosses 2'38" down on Gaudu..
Carthy leaves Roglic behind
The Slovenian is cracking here. Carapaz has 18 seconds left to find and Carthy forges on alone.
Izagirre and David de la Cruz take the final bonus seconds for the stage.
Gaudu should win the stage
The Frenchman has just 400m and no challengers in sight.
But back down the mountain, it's looking remarkably close. Carapaz already has about 25 seconds of the 45 he needs to take red.
Roglic, Carthy and Mas chase together and Carapaz is powering into the gap. He needs to find a LOT of time, 45 seconds.
Carthy is still attacking Roglic, meanwhile.
And who is this coming over the hill? Why, it's Jumbo's Lennard Hoftstede dropping back from the breakaway to help Roglic. This could be crucial.
Carapaz keeps catching more and more riders from the break.
Surely not again, Primoz?!
2km to go – Huge attack from Carapaz!
And nobody can follow but Roglic. Further back it's Mas, then Carthy chasing Roglic. There's about ten bike lengths from Carapaz to Roglic now
3km to go – Carthy breaks Kuss
The Prestonian launches a big attack and that's curtains for Sepp Kuss. Carapaz, Mas and Roglic are able to follow Carthy, but Dan Martin and Wout Poels have been distanced.
And now it's Enric Mas' turn to test out Roglic. They're running out of road here...
4km to go – Gaudu catches Izagirre, drops him
That is going to be very hard to come back from for Izagirre. He's watching the stage win disappear into the mist.
Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana has attacked out of the 'peloton' now. It's Kuss leading that group now, looking calm and collected.
5km to go – Bora bashing in heads
Whoever it is that's setting the pace for Bora, they are doing a sterling job right now. There's a mere 10 riders left in the red jersey group now. He's managed to dispense with George Bennett here.
Gaudu has five kilometres to catch Izagirre now as he passes Mader.
6km to go – Ion has gone again
The Basque is doing his best to shake Mader looser. Clearly he enjoyed winning solo the other day and doesn't fancy sprinting with the young Swiss of NTT Pro Cycling.
Back down the road a stretch, it's Gaudu who is able to ride away from Martin.
7km to go – Gaudu attacks, so does Izagirre
They were part of groups 2 and 1 respectively and they have blown everything to pieces here. Mader is able to cover the acceleration but that's the end of the day for Mark Donovan.
Guillaume Martin seems to be the only one able to stick with Gaudu meanwhile. They are closing in on the leaders now, just 23 seconds between them.
There are perhaps 15 riders left in the red jersey group too. This is pandemonium.
8km to go – Izagirre looking strong
He'd love to double up on his stage win from last week, but the question here is whether this trio has enough in the tank to hold off the formidable group behind them. The gap between the two leading groups is now 49 seconds.
As Jumbo Visma's Vingegaard pulls off the front of the peloton, Bora lend a rider to the chase, with the two super-domestiques Kuss and Bennett just tucked in behind him.
10km to go – Plenty of firepower still in the lead
This group are hot on the heels of the Mader-Izagirre group leading the race: David de la Cruz, Gaudu, Henao, G. Martin, Soler, Schultz, Armirail, Costa, Godon, Storer, Hofstede.
That's some real creme-de-la-creme right there...
Jumbo are happy to let these guys take the bonus seconds, with the gap to the leaders now approaching four minutes. This is Roglic saying to the other red jersey candidates that they'll have to take all the time they need with an all-out attack.
15km to go – Strade Bianche again so soon?
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the town of Candelario had been transplanted from the finale of Strade Bianche. No dramas for the riders as they navigate its tight and winding streets.
The gap is now nearly three minutes to the leaders after Gino Mader leads an attack out of the bigger escape group. He's away with Ion Izagirre and Mark Donovan. Marc Soler has made it over to that main group, currently group 2 on the road.
Jumbo set the pace in the peloton, group 3.
20km to go – Who can challenge Roglic now?
With Mas presumably out of the running for a stage win, plus Carapaz isolated without teammates, is this now Roglic's race to lose? We have one cobbled section at the base of La Covatilla that might throw a cat among the peloton pigeons, but if he can navigate that it's looking more and more positive for Roglic.
The gap between the leaders and the peloton is actually growing right now. It's back above two minutes as the break hit the cobbles in Candelario.
25km to go – Erviti drops back for Soler
Classic Movistar tactics here, this is being sublimely executed so far. Imanol Erviti drops back from the leading group to give teammate Soler a helping wheel. This should allow Soler to catch his breath before they take on La Covatilla.
They have just crested the summit of the Garganta, 25 seconds behind the leaders and one minute and ten seconds ahead of the peloton.
This has implications for the GC because it shows Mas has no designs on a stage win here. He'll probably try and capitalise on any cracks in the riders above him in the standings under his own steam while Soler attempts to secure the victory.
Movistar are clearly not putting all their eggs in one Masket.
So that's interesting...
The Catalan from Movistar, who already has a stage win to his name here at La Vuelta, is charging up the road to try and make contact with the break. He went, just as Movistar's last domestique pulled off from the front of the peloton. Mas is still there in the bunch with Valverde for company, but they've passed the duty of pulling the bunch back to Jumbo Visma.
Within a few hundred metres he's already across to some of the stragglers. Powerful stuff, here!
30km to go – GC head count
Roglic has three lieutenants, Kuss, Bennett and Gesink. Carapaz has none.
Carthy looks to have a coupleof riders for backup, while Dan Martin has one support rider with him.
Movistar, meanwhile, have one guy still up the road , plus three on the front of the peloton working for Mas. Can they make this numerical advantage pay, now?
The break's lead is down to 1'25" and they still have 5km to the summit of the Alto de Garganta.
35km to go – Puncture for Fraile
That's lousy luck for the Basque rider on Astana. His second mechanical problem of the day, and the team car is slow in getting up to him.
He was in the breakaway, still, and possibly beginning to think about trying to win this stage. Will he be able to regain contact?
40km to go – Super Garganta!
Next climb up is the rather gargantuan-sounding Alto de Garganta. This is where the race will come alive, I predict. The breakaway is in ribbons now as plenty of that original 34 are being reclaimed by the peloton.
Movistar continue to put the big blue hammer down.
50km to go – Gap holding strong
Movistar are giving it the beans but the gap is only diminishing slowly.
Here's the marvellous Mr Carthy from before the stage talking up his ambitions to try and take the big one... What do you reckon, is he the strongest climber in La Vuelta. Answers on a tweet to
Hugh Carthy - 'I think I've proven I'm the best climber here, we'll look for more'
60km to go – Change places!
Movistar have come to front of the peloton now and they are going to try and make this part of the stage as tough as they can for the other teams.
Their main man on GC is Enric Mas, but he can't really afford to wait till the Covatilla to make back the sort of time he needs today. They have also put three men up in the move, providing them a few different tactical options at the business end of the race.
That injection of pace has an immediate impact on the race's complexion. The peloton became very strung out and Ineos (including Richard Carapaz) got distanced. This could be the theme for the rest of the stage now, as Movistar look to put some others in the hurty box.
70km to go – Chaves in Chrouble
Regardless of how the race shakes out, I think we can be sure to say that Esteban Chaves is unlikely to win today. He has been struggling to hold onto the peloton for the last hour or so on this challenging up-and-down section of the stage.
He hasn't really looked his best since losing that time with a bike change in the very first week.
75km to go – Ackermann dropped
With no let-up in the climbing today, it's no real surprise to see Pascal Ackermann become disengaged with the breakaway. He's got a healthy amount of 'sliding time' now which should help him in the battle to make the time cut later on today.
It's still the men of UAE Team Emirates who are driving the breakaway on. The gap is starting to look rock solid at three minutes.
80km to go – Break back together
After those initial scuffles when five riders went clear, the break is back to one group of 34. Their gap is 3'14" now.
90km to go – The gap is dropping
Jumbo Visma have deployed the climbing prowess of Robert Gesink to keep tabs on the breakaway at the moment. He's a brilliant guy to have on your side, and a real luxury to be able to use him as a domestique.
It's attritional stuff here now, with a high pace and lots of small crashes – plus a slippery bike change for Luis Angel Mate.
A penny for your thoughts...
It strikes me that this may have been a missed opportunity for the team attempting to unseat Roglic from his red throne.
100km to go – Fractures
A group of five riders has broken off the front of the escape. There are two riders from UAE, one of which being David de la Cruz, then a Bora rider, Michael Schwarzman, Jasha Sutterlin of Sunweb and Nelson Oliveira from Movistar.
The main break, all 29 of them, seem largely unfussed by this initial move.
110km to go - The break remains close to four minutes
UAE are pulling the move for David de la Cruz, while Niki Terpstra of Total Direct Energie has been sent by his team to try and bridge across. This is a huge gap and it'll take Terpstra a long time to cross it solo. One wonders how much in the tank he'll have left by the time he makes the junction, if indeed he does make the junction.
120km to go – Almost four minutes
They've safely navigated that descent now and we have a brutal middle part of this stage coming up. The road is basically up or down no until we begin the Alto de La Covatilla with four categorised tests, plus the accrued up-and-down that comes with undulating terrain.
The penultimate climb of the day comes at 38km to go and it's a category 2, and I think that's where we should see the first fireworks and the start of the break breaking down.
130km to go – 3'29" for the break
With the first of the day's mountains dealt with, the breakaway has begun to build a solid foundation of lead. It's three-and-a-half minutes now.
They are on the sinuous and slippery-looking descent now.
Meanwhile, it's Jumbo Visma doing all the work to keep them on the leash. A reminder that if the gap expands to a whopping ten minutes, David de la Cruz goes into virtual red.
However, right now that's not a serious consideration.
136km to go – Climbing time
The breakaway is on the Alto Portillo de las Batuecas at the moment with seven kilometres to the top. They are still not coalescing together well, with the presence of David de la Cruz the key bone of contention.
This climb is a category 1, but the mountains classification has actually already been decided, with Guillaume Martin securing an unassailable lead in the polka dot blue jersey.
It's becoming evident that the weather is going to be a major protagonist today. The rain continues to bucket down and this sort of endless, unremitting deluge can really sap the legs and the mental reserves.
140km to go – Enormous break...
There are 34 of them. These are their names...
Deceuninck-Quick Step : Cavagna
UAE Team Emirates: Costa, De la Cruz, Henao, I. Oliveira
Sunweb: Donovan, Storer, Sütterlin
Astana: Fraile, I. Izagirre
Bora-Hansgrohe: Ackermann, Schwarzmann
Mitchelton-Scott: Schultz, Smith
Groupama-FDJ: Armirail, Gaudu
EF Pro Cycling: Van den Berg
AG2R La Mondiale: Godon
Lotto Soudal: Dewulf, Van der Sande
Cofidis: Herrada, Martin, Lafay
NTT: De Bod, Mäder
Movistar: Arcas, Erviti, Oliveira
Caja Rural: Bagües, Lastra
Some ferocious quality in there. Interestingly, no representative of Ineos.
Davids Gaudu and De la Cruz are the most threatening to the GC, each sitting about 10 minutes down on the lead.
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145km to go – Too many cooks
There's a lot going on in this break at the moment, but it looks – initially – like they may not be allowed to go.
David de la Cruz is in the break for UAE Team Emirates, and he's a mere 9'29" down on Primoz Roglic' lead and sitting tenth overall. At the moment it's Bora Hansgrohe who are chasing in the peloton, but I'm not wholly sure why. They could be defending Felix Grossschartner's GC seventh position, just two minutes better off than De la Cruz.
Whatever the reason, there's lots of matches being burned right now.
155km to go – Now that's more like it
The original trio led by Henao was brought back and we now have a monstrously big breakaway group of around 30 riders. We'll be watching closely to see who gets in this move, as it's easily big enough for a lower-down-the-order GC guy to have infiltrated.
Our first clmbing test, the Alto Portillo de las Batuecas, looms in 25km.
The riders are all wrapped up in their waterproof jackets at the moment, as the sun beats down upon their backs. We know the weather up at La Covatilla is dismal, and the coats, plus the menacing black skies behind the breakaway, imply that it was pretty bad where they started.
Hold onto your hats folks!
165km to go – Break formed?
Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Scharzmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Stan Dewulf (Lotto Soudal) are the ones who have made a gap stick for the first time in this fast-paced opening to the stage.
I don't think the break stands much chance today, given how important those bonus seconds for the stage win might prove to be in the general classification. If the GC men want to fight for the stag win, then that'll put the kibosh on any serious breakaway hopes. A reminder that the top three on GC are separated by less than a minute at the moment.
Let's see how this move develops. Theyre might be a few more hardy souls who fancy bridging over. Or it might simply be the case that everybody is absolutely knackered after a bruising three weeks in northern Spain.
170km to go – Bunched up
The pack is off and rolling now for real and have already gobbled up eight kilometres of tarmac. There's been no sign of a breakaway just yet, however, with the high speed of the peloton putting paid to any opportunities to attack.
The peloton should be rolling out of the neutral very soon, but in the meantime here's a flavour of the conditions atop our summit finish for the day.
Good morning! And welcome to the last chance saloon...
Hello chicos and chicas, it's me Tom Owen standing in for the mighty Mr Felix Lowe today on this most momentous of days for La Vuelta 2020.
Simply put, it's make or break time for the riders contesting for the general classification, with a mountain top finish at La Covatilla set to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Can Roglic hold on for one last day? Will Hugh Carthy be able to power away on the Covatilla's slopes as he did at L'Angliru? Or will it be the swashbuckling abilities of Richard Carapaz that finally open up a chink in the Slovenian's armour?
We'll know for sure in about four hours time!
Stage 17 preview
Today is a huge day for the conclusion of the 75th edition of La Vuelta.
The peloton will have to tackle a 178.2k ride from Sequeros to Alto de la Covatilla. Take a look at the route map below...
Relentless Roglic in cruise control as day of destiny looms
By sprinting to extend his overall lead ahead of the decisive stage of La Vuelta, Primoz Roglic has shown that he's the red hot favourite to hold off the challenges from Richard Carapaz and Hugh Carthy, writes Felix Lowe.
Rather than keep his powder dry for the Alto de la Covatilla, the Slovenian took second place and six bonus seconds on Friday. Naturally, he wanted more.
Recap - new top 10 after Stage 16
Magnus Cort timed his sprint to perfection to win Stage 16 of La Vuelta a Espana in Cuidad Rodrigo ahead of Primoz Roglic.
Six bonus seconds means the Slovenian man in red extends his race lead over Richard Carapaz and Hugh Carthy going into Saturday's crucial penultimate stage.
While Roglic was annoyed enough to curse an expletive on crossing the line, six extra bonus seconds extends his lead ahead of Saturday's defining Stage 17 from Sequeros to the Alto de Covatilla. Time will tell whether that's enough for the defending champion to retain his crown.
- Relentless Roglic in cruise control as day of destiny looms
- Cort wins Stage 16 as runner-up Roglic extends Vuelta lead
Stage 16 highlights - Breakaway denied as Roglic strengthens grip on red jersey
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