Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) took his second stage win of the 2017 Vuelta a España as he escaped with José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) on a technical descent to the finish, before out-sprinting his Spanish rival to the line.
Five minutes back down the road and the technical final descent provided the launching pad for a telegraphed move by Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who made good use of the narrow road and numerous hairpins to open a small gap on his rivals, including the red jersey of Chris Froome (Team Sky).
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However Nibali hadn’t counted on the descending skills of Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) who led the rest of the GC contenders back onto the Italian’s wheel, before pushing on alone to grab time at the finish, moving to the same time as second-placed Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) on GC, only 36 seconds behind Froome.
How it happened
After a rest day in the south of Spain, the riders took to the start line of stage 10 of the Vuelta a España in uncharacteristically wet and windy conditions, and set off at a seriously fast pace.
Riding ahead of the fastest time schedule meant that it took a long time for the break to form, with 18 riders finally extracting themselves from the front of the peloton after nearly 90km of racing.
In the move were Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Niki Terpstra and Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing), Daniel Moreno and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Nico Denz and Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale), Michael Mørkøv (Katusha-Alpecin), Bert-Jan Lindeman and Juan-José Lobato (LottoNL-Jumbo), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Valerio Agnoli and Domen Novak (Bahrain-Merida), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Rafael Reis and Diego Rubio (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
Having finally allowed a break to get away, the peloton then sat up to allow the gap to go out beyond five minutes with 50km of racing remaining, and Matteo Trentin to take maximum points at the intermediate sprint to retake the lead from Chris Froome in the battle for the green jersey.
The breakaway collaborated well together until the the third-category Alto del Morron de Totana climb, when Janse Van Rensburg set off solo with 37km to go.
The South African led by 30 seconds over the top of the climb, and after a short descent was quickly onto the final climb – the first-category Collado Bermejo – with Rojas, Roson, and Terpstra bridging across from the break.
Roson was in no mood for sticking about, immediately going on an attack of his own, but steadily being chased down by Janse Van Rensburg, Rojas, and a rejuvenated Trentin.
Five minutes back down the road and it was Bahrain-Merida who were leading the peloton, three riders in front of team leader Vincenzo Nibali, the Italian perhaps eyeing up an attack on the long descent to the finish.
The single-track descent immediately strung out the front of the race, while it was indeed Nibali who pushed on from the peloton over the top of the climb.
The Bahrain-Merida leader had the red jersey of Chris Froome locked in his wheel, the Team Sky rider trying to keep the man he described before the race as his biggest threat for victory out of his sight.
However with aggressive riding through the incessant hairpins, Nibali was briefly able to eek out a few metres advantage before Nicolas Roche came back with the rest of the GC contenders in his wheel.
Up ahead and Rojas and Trentin had managed to leave Roson and Janse van Rensburg on the descent, setting up a two-up sprint into Elpozo Alimentacion.
Surprisingly it was Rojas who decided to lead out the sprint, staying on the front throughout the final kilometre, allowing Trentin to come around the outside in the final couple of hundred metres and win the stage with ease.
Behind, Chris Froome and the rest of the general classification contenders were mostly content to roll in en masse, all except Nicolas Roche, who escaped from the group in the final few kilometres to gain 29 seconds, moving him to the same time as Chaves overall.
Vuelta a España 2017, stage 10: Caravaca Jubilar – Elpozo Alimentacion (164km)
1. Matto Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 3-34-56 3:34:56
2. José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, at 1 secs
3. Jaime Roson (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, at 19 secs
4. Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data, at 21 secs
5. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 56 secs
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar, at 59 secs
7. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana, at 2-22
8. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing, at same time
9. Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ, at 2-40
10. Rafael Reis (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, at 3-05
General classification after stage 10
1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 40-12-44
2. Johan Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Scott, at 36s
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing, at same time
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-17
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, at 1-27
6. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-30
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 1-33
8. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac, at 1-52
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 1-55
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 2-15