Review: The final week of the Vuelta a España
Sep 11 2017 02:15 pm CET

Review: The final week of the Vuelta a España
Review: The final week of the Vuelta a España
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The 2017 edition of the Vuelta a España has come to an end with Chris Froome securing his grand tour double. CyclingPub's Marcelo Hernández reviews the final week.

By Marcelo Hernández

Chris Froome has finally achieved his long-lasting aspiration of wearing the red jersey in Madrid. And not happy with just that, he also took home the green jersey of the points classification and the white jersey of the combined classification, rounding up a superb performance that has elevated him to the pantheon of cycling legends. However, his great victory was somewhat eclipsed by the farewell of another member of the legends’ club: Alberto Contador.

The curtain of this Vuelta went down in Madrid as is now tradition in the Spanish Grand Tour. Embracing the spirit of the triumph walk in the Champs Elysees, the Paseo La Castellana has becoming the fixed scenario of the final ride of the race. But this year the final stage had the special feature of the still ongoing battle for the points classification between Matteo Trentin and Chris Froome, an odd duel between the best sprinter of the race and the GC leader just like in the old days of Mercks and Hinault.

Even though Trentin took the victory, the arrival of Froome in the 11th place of the stage ensured the jersey for the Sky leader and reaffirmed his status as the best Grand Tour rider in the world right now. After all, he has at the same time become the first British rider to ever win the Vuelta and the first rider to achieve the Tour-Vuelta double since the Spanish race takes place in the summer. A magnificent achievement by him and his seemingly almighty team in which practically any domestique, Wout Poels, Gianni Moscon or Diego Rosa, is strong enough at the point of being capable of going toe to toe with GC contenders and subvert any dangerous attack before it even happens.

But Sky is also a pragmatic team. Its riders know that they don’t need to immediately react to every attack because having at least four riders with Froome on every climb is enough guarantee that they can drive the pace at their convenience and keep the gaps controlled. This strategy, effective as it is, gave room for the delivery of another wonderful performance by a rider who was brave enough to use Sky’s parsimony to launch attack after attack and conquer the hearts of cycling fans all over the world. I’m talking of course about Alberto Contador.

If Contador didn’t have a bad day in the third stage in Andorra, where he lost more than two minutes, the development of the race could have been quite different during the last two weeks. The Sky squad probably would have been implacable in cutting any attempt by Contador if he was only a minute or a minute and a half behind Froome instead of three or four minutes, and the result of those attacks could have been uncertain. Or maybe not.

Fortunately, the facts were that Contador had enough space to launch brave attacks on the hardest climbs of this Vuelta. This doesn’t mean that things were set up easily for the Trek-Segafredo leader but he did have more chances to attack. He took them all and shone on Los Machucos and of course on the Angliru.

Thanks to the bold performances of Contador the third week of this Vuelta was quite fascinating. After Chris Froome dominated the ITT of the 16th stage, improving the second-best time of the stage by a minute, it was virtually impossible that the Briton could lose the GC. However, the movements of Contador in the next stage, at the hard climb to Los Machucos, damaged Froome and Sky allowing Vincenzo Nibali to regain some time on the race leader. The GC wasn’t really in jeopardy but the little closing of the gaps added some uncertainty to keep the race interesting.

But the most interesting, the most exciting and surely the most remembered moment of the Vuelta was of course the climb to the Angliru. Contador gave a final joy to his fans and finished his career in style by delivering an inspired performance on the steep sections of this mountain, which is one of the toughest in professional cycling. That stage was so emotive not only because Contador unleashed himself looking for the elusive stage victory, but also because while doing so he put the podium of Wilco Kelderman, who finally lost his third spot, and Ilnur Zakarin under threat as the Spaniard managed to resist at the front of the race even when in the last kilometer Poels and Froome started to chase him. In conclusion, the 20th stage of this Vuelta is one of those that incarnates the spirit of cycling and will be remembered by the fans for many years.

And this overall victory of Chris Froome will be seen in the history of cycling as the turning point in the legacy of the rider. The Kenyan-born already had a privileged spot in history after four Tour de France victories but now that he has conquered his first Vuelta, and earned Tour-Vuelta victory, he is in a greater orbit. He is now very close to the greatest names in history, almost at the same level of Indurain and Hinault. In the next seasons we will likely see a fierce battle between Froome and the old and new stars of cycling: Tom Dumoulin, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves and Wilco Kelderman. A battle for immortality.




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