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This story first appeared on VeloNews.com.
Rigoberto Urán took a long-awaited victory after a finale of relentless attacking within the day’s break, triumphing at the end of stage 17 of the Vuelta a España.
The Colombian EF Education-EasyPost rider reached the summit of the Monasterio de Tentudía climb just ahead of Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ), with Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) two seconds back in third.
The success is his first victory of the season and the fourth grand tour stage win of his career. Together with victories in the Giro in 2013 and 2014 plus one in the 2017 Tour de France, the result sees him complete stage wins in each of the grand tours.
The day’s big move began after approximately 39 kilometers of racing, with 13 riders moving clear. This group included American rider Lawson Craddock, and established a maximum lead of over seven minutes. Craddock put in a strong attack with 15km remaining and was still clear with just over one kilometer to go, with several others then getting up to him.
Herrada put in a big surge but Urán was able to claw his way up to him and then attacked, holding off the hard-chasing Cofidis rider to the line.
How it played out
Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España ran from Aracena to Monastère de Tentudia and traced a continually undulating 162.3 kilometer route. While the second cat final climb was the only categorized ascent on the stage, there were plenty of uphills to contend with.
The race was marred by the withdrawal of Primož Roglič, second overall prior to the stage, while Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal) exited with Covid-19 and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) with fatigue.
The stage looked set to be one for a breakaway and there was relentless attacking from the gun. The day’s big move finally began after approximately 39 kilometers when Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) and Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) jumped clear.
They were soon joined by eight others, namely Clément Champoussin, Jungels’ teammate, Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost), Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic).
Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Premier Tech) and Elie Gesbert (Arkea Samsic) bridged soon afterwards, increasing the numbers ahead to 13, and together they established a lead of 7:15 with 50km to go.
The break presented no danger to race leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), with Urán best placed overall in 12th, 14:56 behind.
Wright won the intermediate sprint in Segura de Leon (km 133.2), beating Urán, Soler and the rest. Craddock was biding his time and launched an attack with 19km remaining. The others got up to him, save for Wright, and Craddock then clipped away again with 15km left.
He had 12 seconds with 12km to go, with Wright returning to the group then and attacking hard in a futile attempt to get clear and bridge across.
Fireworks on the final climb
Craddock rode strongly on the lower slopes of the Monastère de Tentudia climb and had 18 seconds with 8km to go. He further increased this to 22 seconds over the next three kilometers, improving his chances. Meanwhile the Movistar team of Enric Mas was driving the pace of the peloton, trying to set things up for a big attack by the rider in second place overall.
Champoussin, Urán and Gesbert played their cards on the climb and attacked with just over five kilometers to go. They reduced their deficit to 12 seconds with 3.5km remaining, with Gesbert then cracking.
Urán and Champoussin kept driving onwards but were joined by first Pacher and then Soler and Herrada. Soler attacked heading into the final 2km, but was reeled in. Craddock’s gap had dropped to ten seconds there but a stall saw that increase again slightly. He kept driving, only to be caught by Urán, Herrada and Soler with one kilometer to go.
A slight stall enabled Champoussin to get back up to that trio and he launched, but Herrada whipped past with 850 meters remaining. Uran was chasing hard and inched closer, then sprinted past, digging in to hold off Pacher and Herrada for the win.
Behind Mas attacked repeatedly but was marked by Evenepoel, with João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) the only one of those in the top ten to gain time. He raced in nine seconds clear of Evenepoel and Mas, while Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) gave up a further two seconds.