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Vuelta a Espana 2017: Chris Froome wins Stage 16 time-trial to increase overall lead

Martin James
5 Sep 2017

Team Sky leader overturns early deficit over Kelderman as Contador signs off in style

Overall race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) overturned an early deficit to win Stage 16 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, a 40km time-trial from the Circuito de Navarra to Logroño in northern Spain.

Froome was behind Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) at the first time check, but steadily ate into the deficit and in the end won by a relatively comfortable 29 seconds with a time of 47min 00.51sec.

Kelderman would finish the day second, with Vincenzo Nibali, Inur Zakarin and Alberto Contador closely grouped in the minor placings.

Overall, it extends Froome’s lead over Nibali to 1:58, and with just five stages to go until the Vuelta finishes in Madrid, makes him now a huge favourite to claim an impressive Tour-Vuelta double, given Team Sky's dominance so far on the roads of Spain. 

Kelderman's strong ride saw him move up to third ahead of Zakarin, while Contador jumped ahead of Fabio Aru and Esteban Chaves to fifth.

The only time-trial in this year’s Vuelta may have posed little real challenge in terms of serious climbs or altitude.

Time gains

But no time-trial this deep into a three-week race is easy, and while the route lacked any sustained gradients, the rolling terrain typical of the region meant serious time gains – and losses – were there for the taking.

For most of the field, with no real chance of placing highly on the stage and domestique duties likely to dominate the rest of their final week, it amounted to little more than a 50-minute training ride.

As for the favourites, the feeling was that Froome would almost certainly extend his modest 61-second advantage over Nibali, even if he didn’t win the stage himself.

Still, third week time-trials in Grand Tours can throw up strange results. And even if the red jersey wasn’t in play, there was plenty of scope for a reshuffling of the order elsewhere in the top 10.

Germany’s 20-year-old Lennard Kämna of Team Sunweb was the first to lay down a serious marker for the later starters to aim at, posting a time of 48min 31sec at an average speed just shy of 50kmh.

But his time was knocked off top spot by Swede Tobias Ludvigsson of FdJ. Having gone 19sec quicker than Kämna at 27km, Ludvigsson only increased his speed in the run for home, and his new best time of 48:07.71 at the finish line was the first to shatter the magical 50kmh average speed.

None of the top 20 overall had so much as set off from the Circuito de Navarra motor racing circuit at this point, but few of them would get close to Lugvigsson’s impressive ride.

Certainly not AG2R’s Romain Bardet, who punctuated what has been an ordinary Vuelta so far by hitting the deck after carrying too much speed into a tight right-hander before he’d even left the Navarra circuit.

All eyes on Contador

The Spanish TV director predictably devoted plenty of airtime to Contador on the Spaniard’s final Grand Tour time-trial, and Contador started well, posting a new best time at the first time check on 13km.

That was until Team Sunweb’s Kelderman came along, with the Dutchman immediately confirming his status as a potential stage winner by blasting through the first time check 18 seconds quicker.

Impressive, and all the more so when Froome’s time was reported as 23 seconds down at the same point – though there was some suggestion of technical glitches in the timing equipment.

Froome, without the protection of Team Sky around him but riding in a discipline where he’s never needed it, had clearly started conservatively, and the rolling deficit to Kelderman steadily began to fall.

The second time check saw Kelderman more than 30 seconds up on Contador, and well clear of the man immediately above him in the overall standings, Zakarin.

But arguably the ride of the day was being done by Bahrain-Merida’s Nibali, second overall and not noted as a particularly strong time-triallist.

At 27.9km Nibali had shed just 31 seconds to Kelderman, and looked like defying expectations that he would be out of the top three by the end of the day.

Then Froome came through, and what hopes Kelderman might have had of an upset win were dashed with Froome now 7 seconds up on his rival.

At the finish line, Contador arrived to a hero’s welcome, his time of 47min 59.82sec an excellent one – even though it was clear by now that he’d finish no higher than third on the day. In the end it would be fifth, as both Zakarin and – impressively – Nibali just eclipsed Contador’s time too.

Then Froome arrived at the finish to confirm his dominance of the day – and the Vuelta overall – with another time-trialling masterclass.

Vuelta a Espana 2017 Stage 16: Circuito de Navarra - Logrono 40.2km, result

1. Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky, 47:00
2. Wilco Kelderman (NED) Team Sunweb, at 0:29
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Bahrain-Merida, at 0:57
4. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) Katusha-Alpecin, at 0:59
5. Alberto Contador (ESP) Trek-Segafredo, at same time 
6. Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE) FDJ, at 1:07
7. Wout Poels (NED) Team Sky, at 1:11
8. Lennard Kamna (GER) Team Sunweb, at 1:30 
9. Bob Jungels (LUX) Quick-Step Floors, at 1:41
10. Daniel Oss (ITA) BMC Racing, at 1:49

Vuelta a Espana 2017: General Classification after Stage 16

1. Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky, 62:53:25
2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Bahrain-Merida, at 1:58
3. Wilco Kelderman (NED) Team Sunweb, at 2:40
4. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) Katusha-Alpecin, at 3:07
5. Alberto Contador (ESP) Trek-Segafredo, at 4:58
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) Astana, at 5:25
7. Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana, at 6:27
8. Wout Poels (NED) Team Sky, at 6:33 
9. Esteban Chaves (COL) Orica-Scott, at 6:40
10. Michael Woods (CAN) Cannondale-Drapac, at 7:06

Photos: Presse Sports / Offside