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Vuelta a Espana 2017: Alaphilippe wins Stage 8 while Froome extends GC lead

Pete Muir
26 Aug 2017

Chris Froome displays his dominance on a day with a brutal 20% final climb

Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors powered up a steep finish to win Stage 8 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. He crested the final brutal climb of Xorret de Catí alongside Rafal Majka (Bora Hansgrohe) and Jan Polanc (UAE Emirates), but managed to outsprint the pair of them on the 3km downhill run-in to the line.

Race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) proved his dominance over his rivals by dropping most of them on the climb to put extra time into them on the GC. The only man to match him was Trek-Segafredo’s Alberto Contador, who remains 3 min 10 secs behind the overall lead, but has clawed a bit further up the GC ranking to 17th place.

How the stage panned out

The day started with the news that Warren Barguil had been thrown off the race by his own team, Sunweb, after he refused to help team leader Wilco Kelderman when he punctured during yesterday’s Stage 7.

Kelderman lost 17 seconds on the GC, and Sunweb felt Barguil was responsible. When the French rider (who won King of the Mountains at this year’s Tour de France and is due to switch to Fortuneo-Oscaro at the end of the season) admitted that he wasn’t following the team plan, he was sent home.

At the beginning of Stage 8, after leaving Hellín, a break of 21 riders formed and established a gap of around five minutes for most of the race. They stayed together for the majority of the 199.5km of the stage, saving themselves for the sting in the tail – the 20% climb of Xorret de Catí, 8km from the finish.

Best placed in the break was Movistar’s Nelson Oliveira, who started the day 3 mins 2 secs behind race leader Chris Froome, and was subsequently in the virtual red jersey for much of the day.

Back in the pack, which was being policed by Team Sky, Froome had to decide whether to chase down the break and protect his race lead or risk handing over the red jersey and play the longer game.

With 50km to go the breakaway was at 4 min 19 seconds, and it looked like the GC teams might be about to start reeling in the break to give their leaders a tilt at the stage win. However, the breakaway pack worked well together and managed to keep the gap large enough that the main peloton eventually gave up the chase.

With 10km to go, the break still had a gap of 3 mins 45 secs over the main pack, and despite some speculative attacks, all 21 riders in the break arrived at the foot of the Xorret de Catí climb together.

Once on the steep climb, the breakaway pack quickly splintered. Julian Alaphilippe and Rafal Majka battled it out at the front of the race, while the charging peloton caught up with the tailenders of the break.

Back in the main pack, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) both made attacks in an attempt to claw back time on the GC. Froome kept tabs on them both, and soon spoiled Oliveira’s dream of taking the red jersey.

Eventually Froome and Contador pulled away from the other GC contenders on the steeper parts of the climb, while Alaphilippe and Majka went over the top of the climb together in the lead, closely followed by Jan Polanc.

Close behind, Froome and Contador raced each down the hill, coming home around 1 min 30 secs behind the stage winner, with Contador marginally pipping his rival to the line.

Of Froome’s other main rivals, Fabio Aru (Astana), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Estaban Chaves (Orica-Scott) were all 17 seconds further back.

Froome now leads the race by 28 seconds from Chaves.