Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) won stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, sprinting from a breakaway group that began the day as 47 riders and was whittled down to fewer than 20 by the finish line.
Second place went to Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) who made the jump with 400 metres left, only to be pipped to the win. Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) took the final step on the podium.
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The escapee group, facilitated by strong crosswinds, formed in the opening kilometres and contained no fewer than six Deceuninck-Quick-Step riders, and a concerted pace of over 50.6km/h over the 219 km stage saw the group whittled down.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) moved up to second on the General Classification, one step above his team-mate Alejandro Valverde and 2 -24 behind race leader Primož Roglič, who rolled in around five minutes behind the winners.
How it happened
A rapid start to the stage saw a group of no less than 47 riders gaining a 1-32 second gap just 20km from the host town of Aranda de Duero.
Notable names there included Quintana, sixth on GC going into the stage (at 7-43), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb, eighth at 10-34) and James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick-Step, 11th at 13-26).
Quick-Step managed to get an almost full roster of six riders over into the move, with Gilbert, Cavangna, Eros Capecchi, Tim Declercq, Fabio Jakobsen, Štybar and Knox all present.
The front bunch remained consistently strong, stringing their advantage out to 2-37 at the 50km mark.
General classification riders, including leader Roglič, utilised their team-mates on the front of the bunch in an attempt to close the gap, but to no avail.
Also not in the break were Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana), in second, third and fourth on the GC.
At the 70km mark, the gap had moved on to 4-05, with as many as 11 riders dropping from the break to reduce the group down to 36.
The pace continued to build, soon the selection was down to 30 riders. Quintana, Knox and Kelderman plus the troop of Quick-Step blue jerseys were among the hangers on – their gap sat at 5-19.
With 98km left to go, Quintana had moved into second on the GC, 2-27 behind Roglič.
The last 80km saw the space between the lead group and chasing peloton increased to 5-45, with a tailwind pushing the escapees on.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step drove the pace in the selection, and with 48km to go Jakobsen had done his job and slipped off the back of the group – though this still left the Belgian team with the greatest share at five riders.
Seemingly for the first time within the race, the time gap dropped – by 30s with 44km to go, with numbers dwindling to 21 out front as the drivers continued their rapid progress over the course.
With 26km left, the break was 4-28 ahead, whilst the GC group had 30km left before their arrival in Guadalajara.
The speed did not drop, indeed the fourth hour of racing was as fast as 54.9km/h. At the 10km mark, the break’s advantage had given out again, to five minutes.
The final 5km of the stage were played out on a gradual slope, with more riders shed from the selection – including Casper Pedersen (Sunweb) and José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar).
In the last 3km, whilst Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) sat in fourth wheel, Quick-Step set the race alive with attacks from Declercq then Stybar in quick succession.
It was Wout Poels (Ineos) who came to the fore with 1km to go, Gilbert nestled in third wheel. Bennett was next to jump, but Gilbert was able to spring from behind and take the win.
Vuelta a España 2019, stage 17: Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara (219.6km)
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 40-20-15
2 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2s
3 Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
4 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Subweb
6 Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team
7 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First
8 Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
9 Silvan Dillier (Sui) AG2R La Mondiale, all at same time
10 James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 6s
General classification after stage 17
1 Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 66-43-36
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2-24
3 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 2-48
4 Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-42
5 Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 3-59
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 5-05
7 Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 7-40
8 James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 8-03
9 Carl Hagen (Nor) Lotto-Soudal, at 10-43
10 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 12-21