The breakaway survived on Wednesday’s first summit finish of the Vuelta a España, with Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan/Astana) taking his biggest career win. Michael Woods continued to shine, finishing with an elite quartet to move up to 10th on GC. Chris Froome padded his overall lead to the next rider by eight-seconds.
— Team COFIDIS (@TeamCOFIDIS) August 23, 2017
The riders faced five categorized climbs, including three Cat. 2’s, over 175.7-km. The final climb may have been a Cat. 3, but it was also 3.4-km of 9.7% with ramps up to 17%. It was another hot day in Spain.
— Team Dimension Data (@TeamDiData) August 23, 2017
At first nine attacked buzzed off after the flag in Benicàssim, but on the first climb the escape grew to 17. Among fugitives were KOM leader Davide Villella (Italy/Cannondale), Lutsenko and Movistar’s Marc Soler. Villella took the maximum points on Cat. 2 Alto del Desierto de Las Palmas and Cat. 3 the Alto de Cabanes.
— ORICA-SCOTT (@OricaScott) August 23, 2017
At the mid-point of the day, Villella with even more KOM points in his pocket, the gap was 4:30. On the longest climb, 13.2-km Alto de la Serratella, Soler’s teammate and breakmate Ruben Fernandez attacked a couple of times, as did Caja Rural’s Lluis Mas. All the action only proved to unhitch a couple of the fugitives. Once again, Villella padded his blue polka dot jersey lead.
On the long downhill from Serratella, with 43-km remaining, the gap back to the Sky-led peloton was 4:40. Could the breakaway survive to sop up the bonus seconds?
First Kutusha’s Marco Haller (Austria) pushed ahead on the descent, and then Lutsenko joined him.
— Team KATUSHA ALPECIN (@katushacycling) August 23, 2017
As several riders tried to get across, it became clear that the peloton had given up the chase and the GC men would preserve their energy for the climb. Therefore, Manzana-Postobon’s Dutchman Jetse Bol or Dimension Data’s Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea), both in the original breakaway, just might be able to take over the red jersey.
Just as Kudus was about to reach the leading duo, Lutsenko flew away. Kudus became his closest pursuer but the Kazakh hung tough. Kudus finished 42-seconds behind but the red jersey eluded both him and Bol.
When the GC peloton was in the final kilometre, Froome attacked, drawing Esteban Chaves, Alberto Contador, Tejay van Garderen and Michael Woods. Then Contador tried flashing away but he finished alongside Froome, Chaves and Woods.
Vincenzo Nibali fell away as Froome’s greatest rival for the win, losing 24-seconds and one place. Van Garderen is now second to Froome, ten-seconds in arrears.
Thursday has more mountains on tap, with the final climb, a Cat. 2, peaking 36-km from the line in Sagunt.
2017 Vuelta a España Stage 5
1) Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan/Astana) 4:24:58
2) Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea/Dimension Data) +0:42
3) Marc Soler (Spain/Movistar) +0:56
15) Michael Woods (Canada/Cannondale) +4:31
2017 Vuelta a España GC
1) Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) 18:07:10
2) Tejay van Garderen (USA/BMC) +0:10
3) Nicolas Roche (Ireland/BMC) +0:11
10) Michael Woods (Canada/Cannondale) +1:13