Tomasz Marczynski of Lotto Soudal claimed his second stage win of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana in stage 12, with a well-timed attack that saw him win solo ahead of Omar Fraile and Jose Joaquin Rojas. There was drama in the GC battle though as Alberto Contador attacked, and Chris Froome crashed twice to lose time on his rivals; although he kept his overall lead.
Rojas, Theuns, Fraile Marczynski make the break
Motril to Antequera Los Dólmenes was a comparatively short 160.1km, but it was classed as a medium mountain stage, with a category 1 climb that peaked with 101km covered, and then a category 2 climb that peaked just under 18km before the finish being the only difficulties of the race. It was a day for a breakaway and it proved to entice a good group of riders. Edward Theuns of Trek-Segafredo and Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar both featured, as did stage 6 winner Marczynski, Michael Morkov of Katusha-Alpecin, Peter Koning of Aqua Blue Sport, Omar Fraile of Dimension Data, Pawel Poljanski and Andreas Schillinger of Bora-Hansgrohe, Brendan Canty of Cannondale-Drapac, Jan Polanc of UAE Team Emirates, Julien Duval of AG2R La Mondiale, Stef Clement of LottoNL-Jumbo, Anthony Perez of Cofidis and David Arroyo of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.
Team Sky appeared glad to see them go and made no attempt to bring them back, allowing their advantage to widen to close to 8 minutes close to the top of the first climb of the day. The bulk of the break had stayed together, with Brendan Canty looking to lead them over the crest of the climb and take the KOM points. Canty did just that, leading the way with 58.3km to go while behind them the peloton looked very much together as Team Sky assumed their usual role at the front of the race with Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo around them.
The break’s lead stabilised at around the 8 minute mark as the riders descended the first climb, but a crash brought down Duval on one of the technical turns. He was back up and riding, but while he was down, Michael Morkov was off the front trying to launch an attack. Morkov’s move saw him gain a slender lead over his companions, and he was chased primarily by Peter Koning with the rest of the group close behind. Morkov built a lead of just under 30 seconds to the breakaway group, while Team Sky continued to lead the peloton which was now almost 9 minutes in arrears with 25km to go and the final category 2 climb to go.
Marczynski & Contador make moves
The catch was made to Morkov with plenty of racing left and much of the climb still to come, while behind them Alberto Contador was getting ready to make a move. Approaching 23km to go Omar Fraile made a move that really fragmented the break. The Dimension Data rider pushed the pace and brought Brendan Canty and Tomasz Marczynski with him, while behind them Jose Joaquin Rojas was struggling to get on board with the three leaders in the company of Pawel Poljanski. These five looked to be the strongest although Marczynski appeared frustrated that there was little cooperation in terms of leading the way and sharing the load.
Brendan Canty made another dig, distancing Rojas and Poljanski, but it was an attack from Marczynski that finally cracked the rest. Marczynski made his move with 22km to go and 4km of climbing left to tackle. The Polish rider was quick to open up a gap on the rest as a 16 second gap opened up quite suddenly. Back down the road Team Sky looked comfortable for now but as the race closed in towards 20km to go an attack went up the road from Alberto Contador of Trek-Segafredo and Nicolas Roche of BMC Racing.
Team Sky looked unfazed by the attack, but they couldn’t afford to give the Spaniard in particular too much space. Up ahead Marczynski crested the top of the climb with around a minute in hand over his closest companions. Meanwhile Contador had opened up a lead of 36 seconds on the Froome group. Contador had an advantage in the fact that up ahead of him was teammate Theuns, and before long the pair had teamed up and flew down the descent together.
Chris Froome crashes twice
However, Chris Froome found trouble of his own, as he crashed twice with just over 15km to go. The Brit was able to remount, apparently unscathed, and he quickly found teammates to support him, but Alberto Contador was pushing the pace, while also now ahead of Froome were the rest of his GC rivals who had an advantage over the red jersey. It wasn’t as simple as sitting up and allowing Froome to regain contact with them, they had Contador to chase and he was building a lead of pushing 1 minute.
All the while Marczynski continued to power on towards the stage win, but sadly for him his endeavours had faded into the background compared to the drama that was going on behind him. With 3km to go for the leader Contador had a 1.11min lead over Froome, with the red jersey piling on the pace to try and limit his losses. But another red jersey was doing everything right as he closed in on his second stage of the race. It was a brilliantly taken win by Marczynski who time trialled on and dug deep with 500m to go. Finally though with less than 100m to go the Pole was free to sit up and savour another win.
Behind him though the second race was taking place. Alberto Contador was still pushing the pace, while Chaves, Kelderman, de la Cruz, Nibali and co were chasing with everything they had to try and catch up with him. All the while Froome was still chasing and chasing hard to try and regain contact with his GC rivals. At the finish line Omar Fraile and Jose Joaquin Rojas took second and third out of a small group sprint.
With just under 2km to go Contador had 43 seconds in hand over the Nibali group, while Froome had done well to close to within 19 seconds of the chasers. Contador was now on his own and having to do all the work himself, while the chase group was still about 20 riders strong. Chris Froome still had the company of Wout Poels and Mikel Nieve. They had the chase group in their sights but they wouldn’t get on board with them.
Contador crossed the line after a valiant performance 7.25mins down, while Steven Kruijswijk led the group home at 7.47mins, while finally Chris Froome crossed the line at 8.07mins.
The result means that Chris Froome leads by 59 seconds overall from Vincenzo Nibali and 2.13mins from Esteban Chaves. Alberto Contador’s attack didn’t see him gain any positions, but it did see him close the gap to 3.13mins.