This 2017 Vuelta a España is “open to successful escapes” with its staggering nine summit finishes and many other mountain days.
The Vuelta’s first 12 stages have seen an escapee win a stage on six occasions. Chris Froome (Team Sky) fought to keep his red leader’s jersey on Thursday while Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal) won the day from the early break.
“The reason? It’s easy, because the finals have climbs or downhill finishes,” said Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors), who won one stage from a sprint and one from an escape.
“The sprinters are dropped, the guys who can climb are allowed to go free in the escapes. If you look, there are many stages in the Vuelta like this and it opens up the race to escapes. I hope this is the new way of cycling.”
Unlike the Tour de France this year, which featured nine sprinter-friendly stages, the Vuelta a España only included four days. Several top sprinters, and their teams that would normally pull escapes back, turned their back on the Spanish tour.
BMC Racing Sports Director Max Sciandri says that his team have been riding for the overall, but sending men like Alessandro De Marchi in the escapes.
“It’s good this way, it’s fun,” Sciandri said. “We were speaking about it yesterday in the bus. I remember the other year at the Giro d’Italia, there was the team with Damiano Cunego and he was going for the mountains classification. Every time he didn’t make the escape, the team would chase back the escape. They were breaking people’s balls.
“Here in the Vuelta, the second division teams are not going crazy if they don’t make the escape. They try and if they make it, great, but if they don’t, they just continue.”
An early mountain stage on day three in Andorra sorted the classification and Chris Froome claimed the red jersey. Since then, his Sky team have controlled the race with little interest in bringing back an unthreatening escape.
“We have such a hard race especially the last week and the GC teams are saving their legs,” Dimension Data sports director Alex Sans Vega explained.
“And plus, there are already big gaps in the classification that made some groups safe for the favourites. They would let the group right away. And the difference here, there are only four days for the sprinters, and that is not many days, so there are not many teams to control the groups.”
“What’s happened so far is that big groups have gone free and Team Sky keeps them close and then it’s up to the others, but there’s not many teams with interest to close them,” sports director at LottoNL-Jumbo, Addy Engels added.
“It’s really hard to control a stage, but if it’s totally flat everybody knows the sprinters teams will control it. And it makes it easier for the breakaways.
“And then it works the other way around, men see opportunities and jump free in a big group and it’s hard to control a group like that. So we see many escapes.”