Bewley & Smith make the split on a brutal stage 17 of La Vuelta a España as the GC has a shake up

Wed 11 Sep 2019

New Zealander Dion Smith had a strong ride today to finish in 13th place from the breakaway on what was a brutally hard day at La Vuelta a España, which saw changes to the overall podium standings. 

Crosswinds and splits characterised what was the longest stage of the tour, with Mitchelton-SCOTT finding themselves very much in contention with numbers at the front.

After fighting to stay in the main GC group throughout various the splits, Mikel Nieve also moved up to 12th place overall with Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) profiting the most from the stage splits, gaining more than five minutes to move up from 6th place to 2nd place overall.

A Large Breakaway Forms

Within the first 20kilometres of the 17th day, a large group of 47riders were able to breakaway from the peloton. Mitchelton-SCOTT were attentive and placed four-riders, Sam Bewley, Esteban Chaves, Damien Howson and Smith in the strong and decisive move.

With most teams well represented, the group extended their advantage out to six-minutes, before crosswinds caused the group to reduce down to 30riders, with Howson and Chaves then missing out on the second selective split.

A Tactical GC Battle

The New Zealand duo of Bewley and Smith remained at the head of the race and with GC contender Quintana in the group, Movistar Team continued set a furious tempo, which subsequently enabled the Colombian to move onto the overall podium after the stage.

Behind the GC battle unfolded with the rest of the Movistar Team using a climb to their advantage to set a hard pace and isolate race leader Roglic, which saw the chasing group reduce down to just 20riders.

Nieve, Chaves and Nick Schultz all fought to stay in the main GC group of 20 riders with Nieve able to move up five places overall at the end of the day.

A Hard Final

Coming into the final kilometres, Bewley drifted off the pace and it was just Smith left at the front for Mitchelton-SCOTT to hunt down a stage placing. After a long 219kilometres in the saddle and with late attacks and an uphill drag to the line, the 26-year-old fought on to finish the day in a respectable 13th place.

Dion Smith

“Pretty much from the start, four of us had good position and straight away it was in the gutter and it was a natural selection of about 40 odd guys and that was that.

“We tried to not do too much work in the front group but it was kind of hard, as there was only so much road for so many guys, so we had to roll through as well.

“To be honest I didn’t have great legs but I think everybody was hurting and they just kept putting the pressure on. It was good to have guys up there and give it ago, but I just didn’t have anything left at the end."

Julian Dean - Sports Director

"It was a really brutal day, probably one of the hardest days of any Grand Tour I have seen. It was an awesome effort from those four guys who made the break initially and then we had Dion and Sam still there coming into the final part.

“It was a good chance for Dion, but on a stage like that, everyone has just had to work so hard throughout the day and you just don’t know what the legs are going to be like coming into the final and when you go up against guys like Gilbert and Boasson-Hagen it is always going to be tough.”

La Vuelta – Stage 17 Results:
1. Phillippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quickstep) 4:20:15
2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:02
3. Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quickstep) ST
13. Dion Smith (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:10

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 17:
1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 66:43:36
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) +2:24
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) +2:48
12. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 17:35

Photos courtesy of Getty Images