The 72nd Vuelta a España concluded with Chris Froome as the winner of the individual, points, and combined classification. Let’s look at some of the most interesting moments and story lines of this year’s Vuelta.
The red jersey defence of Chris Froome
Chris Froome, after winning the Tour de France, came to this year’s La Vuelta determined to finally win both of these grand tours in one year, a feat that hasn’t been done since 1978. Earning the red leaders jersey after only three stages, he was quickly on the right tracks. He kept slowly increasing his lead and scored a win in stage 9 after attacking in the last 500 m of the final climb. In stage 12, Froome had mechanical issues and fell off his bike on a descent giving up valuable seconds to his rivals. Four days later, he won the individual time trial in stage 16 and added over a minute to his overall lead, only to lose it again in the next stage, which was one of his worst. Digging deep, Chris Froome managed to hold on to the red jersey and make history by winning two grand tours in the same year.
The last battle of Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador entered this year’s Vuelta as his last Grand Tour with hopes of ending his career with a victory. Unfortunately, he did not have a great start finishing very far away from the top 10 in first few stages. But like a true veteran he didn’t give up and clawed his way to the top 10 of the general classification in stage 11. That gave him momentum and he became the main driving force of the race for the podium in the final week of the tour. His efforts culminated in stage 20, where he managed to catch up to the breakaway, overtake them, and win. It was unfortunately not enough to get him to the podium, he finished 5th but can walk away holding his head up high.
The tactics of team Astana
Team Astana, the winner of the team’s classification, has excellent riders and showed great results on this year’s Vuelta but the rivalry among their two top riders might have cost them positions in the individual classification. Miguel Angel Lopez started stage 18 as Astana’s highest placed rider, in 6th place, and Fabio Aru was 9th. Rather than supporting Lopez, Aru launched his own attack with 37 km to go and unfortunately faded on the final climb to finish just 12 seconds ahead of the leader. Meanwhile, Lopez didn’t have an answer to the attack of the leaders and lost 21 seconds to Froome. After stage 18, team Astana’s top riders were in 6th and 8th place putting them no closer to the fight for podium then before.
Thomas De Gendt’s breakaways
With the overall classification getting tighter as the tour progressed, many top teams concentrated their efforts on each other which created ideal conditions for breakaways. Riders, who specialize in this style of racing, like Thomas De Gendt, were off the leash. After catching up to the front four riders who escaped the main breakaway group in stage 19, De Gendt joined in Nicolas Roche and was in perfect position for the final sprint. He used his experience wisely and waited until the final sprint to time his acceleration perfectly and finally score a stage win. After riding over 1280 km in escape groups during the Tour de France, Thomas De Gendt efforts finally paid off in La Vuelta.
Close race for the green jersey
The points classification of this year’s Vuelta was a close three man’s race that was decided in the last sprint of the whole tour. Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, and Matteo Trentin all wore the green Skoda jersey throughout the tour but none of them was able to create a definitive lead; they had 153, 128, and 127 points respectively coming into the very last stage. Matteo Trentin won the sprint to the last finish line of 2017 Vuelta a España but it still wasn’t enough, Chris Froome finished 11th defending the green jersey by only 2 points.
Matteo Trentin said: “Chris Froome told me he wanted to defend the green jersey. It’s a pity not to get the jersey after four victories. I won two bunch sprints and two hard days and I can be happy with it”