Primož Roglič clung on to the red jersey on stage 17 at the Vuelta España despite a late attack by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), all but sealing the general classification by 24 seconds.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) took the stage win from the breakaway, bringing Ion Izagirre (Astana) back on the final climb to seal his second stage victory of this Vuelta.
Hugh Carthy also distanced Roglič in the final kilometres to the line, clawing back some seconds and cementing his third place in the GC.
Enric Mas lended a hand to Roglič in the chase of Carapaz, before the Slovenian went off alone and fist-pumped across the line, knowing he had done enough to secure the red jersey.
How it happened
Soon after the start of the penultimate stage of the Spanish Grand Tour, a large breakaway of over 30 riders set off up the road for a last chance at stage glory before the sprinters’ turn tomorrow.
With David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) making it into the move, sitting 10th on GC, Jumbo-Visma sat on the front of the peloton to just monitor the pace.
The peloton continued over the undulating terrain, with Movistar causing a momentary split in the peloton as they drove the pace, catching out Carapaz and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation). Both got back on, but the break’s advantage was soon down to two and a half minutes.
After the gap dropped by another minute, Movistar’s Marc Soler attacked from the peloton, with team-mate Imanol Erviti dropping back from the break to pace him up to the front of the race.
Then, on a cobbled uphill section with 18km remaining, Mark Donovan (Sunweb), Ion Izagirre (Astana) and Gino Mäder (NTT) attacked from the break, 40 seconds ahead at the start of the Alto de la Covatilla.
Izagirre then hit out on the climb, dislodging his two previous collaborators, but Gaudu had found his legs and launched from the remnants of the breakaway behind, putting in a phenomenal effort to overhaul Donovan, Mäder and then Izagirre, and solo the remaining 4km to take the stage win.
Behind, the GC group had started the climb, the final chance to challenge Roglič for the red jersey.
Hugh Carthy was the first to try, cracking Sepp Kuss to leave Roglič isolated, before making another effort to test the legs as the group was whittled down to just the favourites.
Carapaz then saw his moment, launching up the road soon after Carthy’s second go, and quickly taking time out of Roglič.
Thankfully for the Slovenian, he found team-mate Lennard Hofstede, who had been part of the breakaway, to offer some assistance, before Enric Mas also helped pull the group in the pursuit of Carapaz.
Carthy then broke away too, leaving Roglič to chase the two men behind him on GC, and across the line he had managed to hang on to the lead, Carapaz having halved his deficit to 24 seconds, with Carthy cementing his podium place also.
Vuelta a España 2020, stage 17: Sequeros to Alto de la Covatilla
1. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 4-54-32
2. Gino Mäder (Sui) NTT, at 28 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 1-05
4. David de la Cruz (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
5. Mark Donovan (GBr) Sunweb, at 1-53
6. Michael Storer (Aus) Sunweb, at same time
7. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 2-23
8. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-35
9. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling, at 2-50
10. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-56
General classification after stage 17
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 69-17-59
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 24 seconds
3. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling, at 47s
4. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 2-43
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 3-36
6. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren, at 7-16
7. David de la Cruz (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-35
8. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7-45
9. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-15
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 9-34