By Richard Abraham published
Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Belkin) took an opportunistic win on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana after crosswinds wreaked havoc on the bunch after the second rest day.
The all-rounder, whose overall chances faded on stage eight's summit finish, made his lone bid for victory inside the final kilometre of the stage while the thinned out chasing bunch were caught playing games behind.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) once again narrowly missed out on a stage win and had to settle with leading the bunch across the line for second.
The majority of the overall classification favourites managed to hold onto their positions in the lead echelon, however Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) both lost 90 seconds after getting caught out in the crosswinds.
On one of the Vuelta's rare flatter days, containing just two third category climbs, the scene looked set for a sprint finish.
Francesco Javier Aramendia (Caja-Rural) and Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) attacked early, building up a lead of over eight minutes at the 50km mark. However under pressure from Orica-GreenEdge and Lampre-Merida the gap steadily fell until the pair were caught with 21km to go.
Yet as it did on stage 13 of this year's Tour de France, the hot blast of the wind across the bare, open fields caused the bunch to wilt and splinter under sustained pressure.
Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack), riding his final stage of this year's race before leaving to prepare for the world championships time trial, did most of the damage before Saxo-Tinkoff reprised their role at the head of affairs and consolidated their lead.
As the thinned out bunch made it over the small climb on the run in to Burgos and slowed to prepare itself for a sprint, Mollema seized the perfect opportunity in the confusion and couldn't be caught.
Vuelta a Espana 2013, Stage 17: Calahorra to Burgos, 189km
1. Bauke Mollema (Belkin)
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
3. Maximiliano Richeze (Lampre-Merida)
4. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)
5. Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack)
6. Grega Bole (Vacansoleil-DCM)
7. Luca Paolini (Katusha)
8. Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura)
9. Jose Herrada (Movistar)
10. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) all at s.t.
Overall classification after stage 17
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
2. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard at 28 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1-14
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2-29
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff at 3-43
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 5-09
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 6-08
8. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 6-17
9. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 7-33
10. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 10-52
Mollema holds the bunch at bay to take the win
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Coverage index
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Stage reports
Stage 16: Barguil wins second Vuelta stage
Stage 15: Geniez wins as Roche goes on attack
Stage 14: Ratto wins rain-swept Vuelta stage 14
Stage 13: Barguil takes first pro victory
Stage 12: Gilbert ends rainbow curse with Vuelta stage 12 win
Stage 11: Cancellara issues Worlds warning shot by winning time trial
Stage 10: Horner wins stage and regains race lead
Stage nine: Moreno wins stage to take race lead
Stage eight: Konig wins, Roche takes leadStage seven: Stybar wins from escape
Stage six: Morkov wins after Martin's day-long escape
Stage five: Matthews wins in Lago de Sanabria
Stage four: Moreno wins tough stage
Stage three: Horner takes charge with stage win and overall lead
Stage two: Nicolas Roche attacks to win
Stage one: Astana takes opening team time trial
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Photo galleries
Stage 16 photo gallery
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.