Contador turns Vuelta upside-down with stunning stage win

Alberto Contador wins, Vuelta a Espana 2012, stage 17

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 attacksStage four report: Rodriguez takes over lead after Valverde crashesStage five report: Degenkolb wins again

Stage six report: Froome gains time on ContadorStage seven report: Degenkolb makes it three at Vuelta

Stage eight report: Valverde doubles his score in AndorraStage 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 galleryStage 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

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