Following the carnage of Sunday’s stage 16, in which the majority of the peloton were given a reprieve for finishing outside the time limit, those with some energy left battled it out over a tricky finale.
Meersman opened his sprint first, chasing down a late attack from Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff), but Drucker’s speed was enough to take him past the Belgian, emulating fellow Luxembourger Frank Schleck’s win on stage 16 at the 2015 Vuelta.
The general classification teams swarmed to the front of the peloton ahead of a tricky final few kilometres, with Tinkoff and Astana heading proceedings along with wildcards Bora-Argon 18.
Heading into the final 10km, Team Sky came to the fore, determined to oust their demons from Sunday’s brutal stage, in which all squad members but Chris Froome missed the theoretical time cut.
Several roundabouts and pinch points created hazardous racing conditions as the pace increased for the sprint. Giant-Alpecin and Dimension Data replaced Sky at the front of the pack as the sprint trains started to form with five kilometres to go.
Bennati tried a long-range attack from the two kilometre mark, taking advantage of a slight lull in the rapid pace. The Italian was caught in the final 200m by the marauding spritners.
Meersman, who won stages two and five in the first week, was the first to go, but the 2015 RideLondon-Surrey Classic champion, Drucker, edged past him in the final metres to take his first Grand Tour win.
Rudi Selig (Bora-Argon 18) and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) repaid their teams’ hard work in the final kilometres by passing Meersman for second and third respectively.
The peloton enjoys the second rest day on Tuesday before the final run to Madrid, which features summit finishes on stages 17 and 20 and an individual time trial on stage 19.
Vuelta a España stage 16, Alcañiz – Peñiscola (156km)
1. Jempy Drucker (Lux) BMC, 3-21-18
2. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Argon 18
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
4. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx-Quick Step
5. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ
6. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
7. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
8. Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo
9. Tosh van der Sande (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha
Overall classification after stage 16
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, 64-57-27
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 3-37
3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 3-57
4. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 4-02
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 5-07
6. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing at 6-12
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 6-43
8. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 7-17
9. David de la Cruz (Esp) Etixx-Quick Step at 7-23
10. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 7-39