Astute teamwork from OBE sees Chaves & Yates maintain 3rd and 5th overall at La Vuelta

Wed 7 Sep 2016

ORICA-BikeExchange produced another tactically astute performance on stage 17 of La Vuelta a Espana today with Colombian Esteban Chaves covering moves late in the day and holding on to third overall with stage six winner Simon Yates still in fifth.

2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans and young Dane Magnus Cort made it into the day's breakaway group and nicely executed another potential network of support for Chaves and Yates on the stage finale.

Matthias Frank (IAM-Cycling) took the solo stage victory after attacking out of the breakaway on the approach to the finish on the Mas de la Costa.

ORICA-BikeExchange led the peloton onto the climb with both Chaves and Yates right at the front when the selection was made, with Cort and Gerrans positioned further up the road if required.

The anticipated high-flying attacks never quite materialised, although Chaves was alive to the danger when Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) had a dig with the Colombian maintaining tempo before pushing on in the closing metres.

The top four finished together with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) still in the race lead and Christiopher Froome (Team-Sky) in second 20seconds ahead of Chaves.

Contador sits in fourth place, five seconds behind Chaves with Yates in fifth ahead of tomorrow’s stage18.

Sport director Neil Stephens commended the efforts of the team on a tough finish to the stage.

“I think both Esteban (Chaves) and Simon (Yates) did a really good job today,” said Stephens. “We knew that the last climb was going to be really demanding, if you made one effort too many the you would pay for it for the rest of the way up and we saw riders shelled instantly from the favourites group.”

“Simon rode really well, he rode within himself when the top four went off the front and basically time trialled his way to the line. Esteban rode like a champion, when Contador attacked he kept his head knowing that it would cost further up the road and waited until the final metres to try his luck.

“You have to commend all the top four riders, they were all pretty close to the edge at the end today yet hats off they all pulled back and finished together.

“Today’s parcours wasn’t really ideal terrain to go for a brave tactical move, but Simon (Gerrans) and Magnus (Cort) both did well in the breakaway and were in good positions should the situation have eventuated.”

How it happened:

Another hot and challenging day in the saddle began with a second category climb just outside of the start in Castellon, the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas.

Numerous attacks attempted to break clear on the climb before a large group of 28 started to develop an advantage after an hour of racing.

The group included Cort and Gerrans for ORICA-Bike Exchange and with 100kilometres left to race they were five minutes ahead of the peloton.

Working well together, the escapees reached a maximum lead over seven minutes on the peloton before the gap started to reduce as BMC Racing upped the pace going into the final 60kilometres.

After holding the gap at close to six minutes for the next thirty kilometres, the Gerrans/Cort group started to split when Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked from the front with Frank on his wheel.

Faced with 25kilometres of rolling roads before the hellishly steep climb up the Mas de la Costa to the finish, Cataldo and Frank quickly gained 30seconds on their former companions who now needed to reorganise.

Inside the last ten kilometres and the two leaders still held 30seconds over the Gerrans/Cort group.

Five minutes further back the rest of ORICA-BikeExchange were lined out at the front of the peloton looking to advance Chaves and Yates onto the last climb in the best possible position.

First Jens Keukeleire, then Damien Howson led Chaves and Yates onto the Mas de la Costa as the bunch split heavily with four kilometres to go.

At the front of the race Frank was pushing on alone, accelerating away from Cataldo as the race split apart behind him with the top four overall now climbing together after an initial attack by Contador.

Frank held on for the stage win with Chaves, Contador, Froome and Quintana marking each other closely and crossing the line together with Yates finishing not far behind.

Stage 18 takes place tomorrow and covers 200kilometres from Requena to Gandia. A lumpy fist half takes in the second category Puerto de Casa del Alto climb before a long descent and rolling roads lead to the coast and a flat, more than likely, sprint finish.

Vuelta a Espana stage 17 results:

1. Mathias Frank (IAM-Cycling) 04:34:38
2. Leopold Konig (Team-Sky) 00:00:06
3. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) 00:00:11
27. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:03:27

General classification after stage 17:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 69:35:32
2. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 00:03:37
3. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:03:57 
5. Simon Yates (ORICA-bikeExchange) 00:06:03