Vuelta a Espana 2012, stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

It was expected to be a day for the breakaway. The favourites would be keeping their powder dry for the penultimate stage, the summit finish to the Bola del Mundo, and the peloton would let the breakaway fight it out for the spoils of the stage win. 

Except someone forgot to tell Alberto Contador. He and his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team-mates turned the Vuelta on its head with an audacious and stunning attack over 50km from the finish to take stage 17 and, vitally, the race leader’s red jersey. 

The Spaniard well and truly stuck the knife into Joaquin Rodriguez’s chances of overall victory. His compatriot on the Katusha team finished over two and a half minutes behind Contador and lost the lead in a race that just five hours earlier he must have believed he had all but won. 

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) twisted the knife further, almost catching Contador on the line but leapfrogging Rodriguez into second place overall. 

Stage for the break?
Following the second rest day and a brutal three days in the Asturias, demand was high to make the breakaway, in particular amongst the 14 teams yet to win a stage. A long but gentle finishing climb offered, it seemed, little for the overall favourites to make a difference. 

Indeed it took around 80km, raced at speeds nudging 48kmph, for eleven riders to break clear. Yet they returned to the sights of a peloton chasing hard with a little over 60km to race on the slopes of the third category Collado de Ozalba. 

A large chase group swiftly splintered clear and contained, crucially, three riders from Saxo Bank and two from Movistar. 

Contador makes his move
Right on cue, Contador surged clear from the bunch and joined his team-mates to execute the plan. A tired Rodriguez was caught off guard and seemed incapable of halting the action unfolding in front of him despite his best efforts at the head of the chase. 

The shallow gradients of the final climb to Fuente De suited the powerful Contador above the punchy Rodriguez and it showed. In fact it was Valverde who came close to unravelling Contador’s plan, jumping clear of Rodriguez and teaming up with his two Movistar team-mates up the road.

Six seconds was the closest Valverde came to Contador, right on the finish line, but it was enough to claim second overall as Rodriguez finished a further 2-31 back.

Britain’s Chris Froome (Sky), who suffered on the previous stage to the Cuitu Negru, was once again off the pace and finished nearly five minutes down on Contador. His fight for the podium is well and truly over, but his three minute lead over Daniel Moreno (Katusha) looks to be enough for fourth overall.

In the fight for the podium, the tables have been turned. Where Contador spent his rest day plotting to take the red jersey from Rodriguez’s shoulders, that task is now handed to Rodriguez and Valverde. 

Yet with just four stages remaining their time is fast running out.

Vuelta a Espana, stage 17: Santander to Fuente De, 187.3km
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 4h 29-20

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 6 seconds
3. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky s.t.
4. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi s.t.
5. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 19 seconds
6. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan at 55 seconds
7. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 1-13
8. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos-Shimano at 1-40
9. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana at 2-13
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2-38
32. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 4-58

Overall standings after stage 17
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 68h 7-54

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1-52
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2-28
4. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky at 9-40
5. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 11-36
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 12-06
7. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 12-55
8. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 13-06
9. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 13-49
10. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 14-10

Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis

Joaquin Rodriguez at finish

Alberto Contador on the podium

Chris Froome at the finish

Related links

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Coverage index

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Reports
Stage one report: Movistar win team time trial
Stage two report: Degenkolb wins, Swift third
Stage three report: Valverde victorious after Contador attacks
Stage four report: Rodriguez takes over lead after Valverde crashes
Stage five report: Degenkolb wins again
Stage six report: Froome gains time on Contador
Stage seven report: Degenkolb makes it three at Vuelta
Stage eight report: Valverde doubles his score in Andorra
Stage nine report: Gilbert pips Rodriguez in Barcelona
Stage 10 report: Degenkolb continues unbeaten sprint record
Stage 11: Rodriguez hangs onto lead as Kessiakoff wins time trial
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins stage 12 to extend Vuelta lead
Stage 13: Cummings returns to winner’s circle in Spain
Stage 14: Rodriguez stakes claim with Vuelta mountain-top win
Stage 15: Rodriguez rules at Covadonga as Froome loses time
Stage 16: Rodriguez strengthens lead as Froome keeps fourth
Stage 17: Contador turns Vuelta upside down with stunning stage win

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Photos
Stage one TTT gallery
Stage two gallery
Stage three gallery
Stage four gallery
Stage five gallery
Stage six gallery
Stage seven gallery
Stage eight gallery
Stage nine gallery
Stage 10 gallery
Stage 11 gallery
Stage 12 gallery
Stage 13 gallery
Stage 14 gallery
Stage 15 gallery
Stage 16 gallery

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Latest news
Porte puts Olympics snub to the side ahead of Vuelta debut
ITV to show Vuelta highlights
Froome to lead Sky at Vuelta
Degenkolb just can’t stop winning

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Start list
2012 Startlist

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Route info and analysis

Vuelta a Espana 2012 route revealed

Vuelta 2012 route leaves time triallists out in the cold

  • Crazytrucker

    Why is it that the moment the unrepentent cheat Contador crossed the line to don the red jersey I lost all interest in this years La Vuelta?
    What with my former hero Lance Armstrong surrounded by the brown and smelly now this, and what is worse he (Contador) didn’t even serve his full 2 year ban.
    At least David Millar repented his sins, but not this cheat!

  • Mike

    Ciel. I was calling a spade a spade.

    I will always attack drug cheats who spoil my sport. Maybe if more fans, and particularly, other riders and team managers, took the same stance we may get rid of the cheats once and for all. It is because people like Riis and his ilk welcome the banned riders back with open arms that the problem persists.

    There was once tacit agreement between the teams that banned riders could not walk straight back into a top pro team after a ban, but US Postal/Radioshack tore up that agreement when signing up Basso.

  • jonathan polley

    Ceil – you are right, cycling has been rife with drug taking since someone payed money to see some one else cross the line first (and probably begore that). Simpsons tragic death fuelled a greater awareness of drug taking and its catastrophic consequences. For this cycle of drug abuse to be continuing now is saddening, it degrades the racing and degrades the athletes.

    It feels like the tide has turned over the last five years or so with Slipstream and Sky seeming to take a real anti doping stance and getting the results, but the history of Contador, comming from the Once / Discovery stable and with Riis as his current director it feels like he is a product of the dark days of the two speed peleton. Maybe if Contrador signed with one of the new generation of teams and still won, then I may have more faith. But then I guess they can’t sign him because of his conviction………………..

  • Ciel Hummel

    Mike i dont know you that is correct. “cheating little worm” would seem to me a personal attack on contador.
    Pharmecetical help has been rampant in continental cycling for at least 50 years, and i would venture to suggest that at present it is probably at its lowest level so that is progress. I wonder if any on here who attack
    contador for his amazing perfomances in this vuelta would ever suggest that in 1987 a ‘man’ won giro, tour and worlds was not getting a little help. I think people should remember and not be so selective in who we praise and who we castigate.

  • Gordon

    I also approached watching the stage with some cynicism and expected to see Contador pulling away from a charging peleton but on seeing the stage, I think it seems legit. Contador opened most of his 2 min 35 gap when with a breakaway group. From around 13km out, both Bertie and Purito were riding alone. The gap by that time was around 2 minutes 20 and by the end it had only increased by about another 15 sec. Contador good day/time trialler – Purito a bad day/non time trialler. What was interesting for me was it showed how important a strong team is. There were lots of similarities with a transition stage in the tour (between Alps and Pyrenees) where it took around 80km for an acceptable break to be let away. However after that, Sky were still strong enough to have some bodies with Wiggins whereas Rodriguez was isolated because all his team were spent from chasing down early unnaceptable breaks. Reflecting on Vuelta generally, I would love someone to do an analysis of what VAM Bertie has been climbing at over a whole climb and compare this to Wiggins and Froome at the tour and maybe compared to Berties VAM pre drugs bust. My guess is that they wouldn’t be far apart (Tour vs Vuelta, not pre-bust) as Valverde consistently made it back up to Contador and Rodriguez by riding at a more sustained rate. We did see a stage early in the Vuelta (when Sky and Froome were stronger) where the punchy guys couldn’t initially go with Froome following a period of pace setting by the Sky guys. I’ve read lots of comments along the lines of Contador is going to woop Wiggins next year because he is out riding Froome in this Vuelta but that is comparing apples with oranges. Froome clearly doesn’t have the same form that he had in July. I’m looking forward to it.

  • stuart stanton

    Hypocrites, all of the above, correspondents when are the GB/Team Sly mob going to give back the Gold Medal for the Team Sprint ? Blatant, unashamed cheating. The only people on the Vuelta up for criticism are the clowns in the UCI who allowed Bertie’s case to drag for so long

  • MR

    It seems somehow wholly appropriate that two drug cheats (unrepentant) should be leading the national Tour of the country most closely associated with systematic, endemic doping. Sad.

  • Mike

    Ciel…..You do not know me, so please do not stoop to personal attacks. A child simply cos I dont like cheats, yea that would be right.
    Patriotism???? You have no Idea what nationality I am so do not presume know who I wanted to win the Vuelta.

  • Hummel

    Make sure you dont get caught then brad.

  • Jon

    Of course I bloody want drug tests! And I would prefer a clean rider winning to a British doper.

    By false logic I meant that it is a fallacy to say ‘some tests may be compromised, therefore all tests are compromised’, which is what this statement says: “If we believe Wiggins and Froome drug tests are correct, then we must believe Contador’s are”.

    Contador may currently be clean, but he only had 6 months off the bike and made himself a major pain in the backside in his protracted attempt to wriggle out of it. He should have had 2 years off the bike like all the other dope cheats, and not even be in this Vuelta.

    And Wiggins has been very outspoken in his opposition to doping:
    “If I doped I would potentially stand to lose everything. It’s a long list. My reputation, my livelihood, my marriage, my family, my house. Everything I have achieved, my Olympic medals, my world titles, the CBE I was given. I would have to take my children to the school gates in a small Lancashire village with everyone looking at me, knowing I had cheated. Knowing I had, perhaps, won the Tour de France, but then been caught.”
    “The reasons I would never use drugs have become more important. It comes down to my family, and the life I have built for myself and how I would feel about living with the possibility of getting caught. Winning the Tour de France at any cost is not worth the possibility of losing all that.”

    Doesn’t come across as evasive to me. You might want to get your facts right and read up on logic before thinking too hard about it.

  • BG

    He must have enjoyed a good steak the night before!

    What a let down of a race with those two leading.

  • Graham Goodman

    It’s not about patriotism. It’s not even about ex-dopers being back in the sport. It’s about how two or three riders can ride the hardest Grand Tour that I’ve ever seen and not appear to be getting more tired as each stage passes. It’s about how Valverde can be a better climber post-doping ban than during the time that he was supposedly doping.

    In four stages, Froome has lost 9 minutes on Contador. And yet, has only dropped one place on GC and hasn’t particularly lost time on those riders who were outside the top 4 going into Saturday’s stage. Froome is showing the signs of a rider getting progressively tired that you’d expect. Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez, aren’t. They are showing super-human recovery in this race and, to quote Chris Boardman, “when you see something that’s too good to be true, it generally is.”

    Contador returned a positive test on a rest day in the Tour de France. He had arguably his best day in this Vuelta the day after a rest day. Coincidence?

  • elcynico

    Ciel Hummel – Quite a lot of Brits actually idolise Robert Millar. You might like to check out his 1985 vuelta..

  • Peter Jones

    I think hummel is taking the pee out of you boys- ciel hummel means something like f*** sky in Finnish. Ha ha.
    After the Festina affair will all believed in Lance hype be carefull wiggo devotees be very carefull, he seems nice but you never know……….

  • David

    Two unrepentant dopers top the pile.
    One of whom serves just 6 months out of cycling when ban is for 2 years.
    Not a happy day, whatever the manner of the stage.

  • Ian P

    Have i been watching a different race – Contador has struggled on the steep stuff, where he used to excel and been ok on the average climbs – i wouldnt say his performance has been strange – and yesterday he gapped Purito and Valverde on a descent increased the gap with team-mates and then rode slower than Valverde up the final climb on his own – about the same pace as Rodriguez.

    Valverde has been unrepentent in his drug story – Contador at least shouted and screamed his innocence – id rather have him leading than Valverde

    Really does it matter – we all know the sport has problems to the core – but at the end of the day – Wasn’t it just great racing and isnt it nice to see guys trying to break each other rather than the Sky express stifling the bunch.

  • Peter Lynch

    I think Ciel is on to something here, the drug testing is irrelevent? Jon do you want drug tests? False logic i dont think so. We either want drug tests and a level playing field or not. Wiggo is evasive at best on doping. Nationality is irrelevent but sometimes we think that continental europe is something of a mire. Continental europe has all the races and thats primarily where the problem will be. Tell me do you think contador is doping at this vuelta?

  • Graham H

    Always wondered exactly how much extra time advantage doping would give you over a three-week tour. Now we know – it’s about 10 minutes.

  • Jon

    Ciel Hummel – Anyone who isn’t happy about dopers competing probably also has little faith in the drug tests. This doesn’t mean Wiggins and Froome are doping, just that for whatever reason they are failing to catch all the dopers, and when they do catch them some of them only get 6 months off the bike.

    So please spare us your false logic and personal attacks. People have every right to be angry when their sport is still infested with dopers who are spoiling the party for everyone else. It has nothing to do with nationality, just wanting cycling to be a sport, not a platform for cheats to win hollow victories at honest athletes’ expense.

  • John Westwell

    Whilst having Contador win the Vuelta is hardly ideal, I don’t think he or Valverde can be said to have ridden away from everyone. Contador finished a few seconds ahead of Valverde, who was in a small group with the remnants of the breakaway which had been away with Contador from the start. In other words, after all that effort, Contador finished 6 seconds ahead of a Sky rider who attacked at the same time. According to reports before the stage, Froome has given up riding for the GC to concentrate on regaining his form for the World Championships time trial. He looks tired, as did Rodriguez, Valverde (who tried several times to jump away from Henao, and couldn’t close the 15 second gap in the last kilometre) and especially Contador, who crossed the line looking spent.

  • Philip Livingstone

    Sadly the Vuelta looks like a return to the bad old days in comparison to the Tour which has been getting on top of the doping issue.
    As the saying goes “if a deal is too good to be true, it usually is”, Dirty Bertie must have been at the local steakhouse on the rest day…..

  • Organised Confusion

    What on earth was Rodriguez doing?. No game plan and virtually abandoned by his own team mates. This should have been straightforward – mark Dirty Bertie and Valeverde all day on shallower climbs than all you faced over the last 7 days. The race should have largely been in the bag for Katusha at this point and they have, a la Giro, thrown it all away.

    I don’t enjoy the sight of Dirty Bertie and Valverde gaining time and podium positions anymore than anyone else but honestly, it looked like more than a case of a simple “bad day” for Purito and more like the whole team fell asleep. It’s a crying shame as Dirty Bertie will now be on the top step in Madrid when he shouldn’t even be riding.

  • Ciel Hummel

    Cyncism eh? Do you all believe the drug tests at the moment are credible? Do you believe the drug tests Wiggins and Froome took at the TDF are credible? If we believe Wiggins and Froome drug tests are correct, then we must believe Contador’s are. Please dont spout patriotic nonscense, johnny foreigner is dubious man.
    Mike you really are a silly child, my mates not winning anymore im taking my toys away! How long are you going to bore us all with this i hate contador, please go and idolise the gentleman doper simpson.

  • elcynico

    Wow, look! it’s a Conatador-Valverde one-two. How marvelous…

  • Ian Ellis

    I’m pretty depressed with this result. Two pretty much unreformed druggies taking the lead.

  • Jonathan Polley

    So two convicted dopers making extreme efforts that none of the peleton can hold onto, one only 6 weeks out of a ban. Attacking when the rest of the field are hoping for a breakaway and a truce until the final mountain stage. Its been great racing, but now? Unbelievable. Literally.

  • Ian

    He’s finally brought home his bacon!

  • Jon

    A victory for dopers everywhere and another sad day for cycling.

  • Mike

    Well, thats it for me. I wont be taking in any more of the Vuelta simply to watch that cheating little worm stand on the podium.
    Funny how he has managed to attack every day, time after time, and then do a 50k uphill solo ride without geting tired. Yea right.
    How many Spanish reared steaks has he eaten this time????

  • Terry

    I really want to believe it but …………..

  • Cycle

    Huge. Contador is the best. He compites bravely, takes risks. Cycling shouls always be like this. Btw, Vuelta is being much better than boring Tour, much more exciting

  • JD

    Seven minutes between third and fourth place. That gap is making some fans nervous.