Mollema Takes Stage 17 of Vuelta
Bauke Mollema (Belkin) has salvaged his Vuelta and that of his team, which before today had not won a stage and was down to four riders. The Dutchman jumped away from the lead group in the last km to win Stage 17, a rolling, 189-km ride from Calahorra to Burgos, in 4:44:28. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) finished second, and Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) took third. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the red jersey.
After a 21-rider, from-the-gun attack was reeled in, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) jumped clear at three km. The pair led the field by 7:05 at 18 km, at which point Lampre-Merida went to the front of the peloton. When the duo’s advantage went up to 8:10 at 50 km, Orica-GreenEdge joined the Italian squad at the front to peg the lead.
At 98 km, the escapees’ lead had fallen to 3:52. On the Category 3 Alto de Pradilla, Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) attacked out of the peloton. On the descent, the bunch reeled him in. With 60 km to go, the break led the bunch by 4:31.
With 30 km remaining and the gap between fugitives and peloton at 1:26, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff went to the front and started accelerating. Movistar and RadioShack-Leopard joined the Danish squad, and the field split. RadioShack-Leopard took command of the 40-strong lead group, which contained most of the heads of state. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (Francaise des Jeux), however, were caught off guard and would spend the rest of the stage chasing.
With 24.3 km left, the escapees’ advantage was 0:33. Saxo Bank-Tinkoff accelerated again, and Hansen and Aramendia were reeled in three km later.
With 15 km remaining, the lead group was 0:42 ahead of the second group, which was just ahead of a third group. The two chasing groups merged, but Saxo Bank-Tinkoff kept the pace high. Movistar, Katusha, and Astana helped with the pacemaking, and the lead group’s advantage grew.
With 10 km to go, the gap was 0:48. One and a half km later, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) attacked. RadioShack-Leopard led the pursuit. Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) joined the Italian, but the bunch reeled them in with 4.6 km remaining. Tanel Kangert (Astana) countered, but the peloton nabbed him with three km left.
Sky and NetApp-Endura massed at the front at the one-km banner. Mollema jumped clear. The sprinters’ teams set out after the Belkin man, but he would not be caught. The Pozzovivo/Pinot group finished 1:31 behind Mollema.
Mollema knew that a last-km attack could succeed. “I knew there was a chance to attack in the final kilometer. With the wind…there was a small pack….So I waited until the last line to attack because there were sprinters. This was my only chance . I did not look back. It is a great satisfaction to win this.
“After the Tour, I knew it would be hard to make the general classification in the Vuelta and I realized in the early days that it would not be possible. I was not good enough for that and that's why I wanted to win a stage . I was dropped last Friday but it was also necessary that I save energy on the days when it was not possible. It paid off for me today.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:28 and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 1:14. Stage 18 will be the first of three consecutive mountain stages that will decide the 2013 Vuelta. The 186.5-km ride from Burgos to Pena Cabarga, will take the riders over three Category 3 ascents and a Category 2 climb before the first category climb to the finish. Who will win? Nibali? Horner? Who will wear the red jersey tomorrow night? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!