La Vuelta 18: YEAH Chris Froome! but YEAH Fabio Aru!

Fabio Aru s'impose devant Froome
Green and blue. Forest and the sea. From A Estrada to Monte Castrove, up and down, repeat.
Some great cycling on Spain roads.
After just 5 km a break goes away:  Chaves, Conti, Sergent, Haas, Hinault, Keizer, Quinziato, Serry and Thomson.
But it's a nervous stage, for many the stage chance to show the jersey or to try and get a result. Break caught, it's Johan Le Bon alone in front. Dupont and LL Sanchez join
32 km to go Adam Hansen attacks from the peloton but it doesn't work. The race is already aproaching Alto Monte Castrove (2nd cat), Team Sky takes the lead and keeps it. LL Sanchez attacks the break to go collecting the last KOM points. 20 km to go, they are all together, preparing for the last ascent. 8 km to go Chris Froome takes everybody by surprise: he had done his maths, attacks and gets 2'' bonus at the intermediate sprint. Now the gap with valverde in the GC is just 1'.
Last climb. There we go. Le Mevel attacks, some riders try to bridge including De Marchi. Now the GC riders move. Barguil is gone solo, Coppel joins and drops, he's solo 4 km to go. Behind, only a selected group of riders watching each other. Aru attacks from the back, gets off from the right hand side, joins and passes Coppel.
For the overall the time is now: Rodriguez attacks, Valverde on his wheel. They collaborate finally but it's too late. Contador and Froome follow. Froome attacks 2 to go, joins Aru, goes with him to the line.
Stage to the brave Italian, the 2nd place in GC to the brave Brit.

Fabio Aru:
“It’s the first time I’ve done the Vuelta and the first time I’ve done two Grand Tours in the same year, so it makes sense for me to take things on the day-by-day. But this victory feels really special all the same. 
My sports director told me that I was on the hardest part of the climb, and that’s why I went on the attack.
Then when Froome came across, we worked to get to the finish together and it all played out in the last few metres. 
I wanted to stay in the top five overall as well, and we’ll see what happens between now and Sunday. But it’s already an honour to be racing against such top names.”

Team Sky DS Dario Cioni: 
“We’d spoken with Chris about how, if he felt good, it could be a good opportunity to get time on Valverde and possibly Contador. But for the guys to perform so well on the day was really impressive.
The challenge with the bonus seconds today, and the reason why they are so close to the finish, was that if people made the effort to get them they could pay at the finish. The other GC guys attacked early on the climb because Chris went for the seconds, but in the end he was strong enough to do both.
You can see from the way our guys are riding that we’re a strong team. Everyone here is doing a great job – riders and staff – and it’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Team Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Steven De Jongh: 
"It was a very fast day and a long fight for the final breakaway to go away. Then, as we had expected, Team Sky pushed very hard for the first time. In the finale, Aru went away and Frome got across. Alberto was together with the two other Spanish riders, so he lost a few seconds but that wasn't too bad. Tomorrow will be all about survival and Saturday will be the final battle in the mountains."

Alberto Contador:
“Clearly it is better not to lose time but I hope it's not too much of an issue. I had to control the three and I thought that Alejandro had to defend the podium, while the stage was a pretty good opportunity for him as well. It is true that we lost time and now I have to follow Froome on Ancares. But I'm happy with my shape, I feel pretty good and we have one less day to go now. 
They also had interests, especially Alejandro, who didn’t want to lose his second place on the podium. Perhaps I was a bit cooler than usual. 
Froome didn't surprised me. Not at all, he was sitting last in the group and I knew that when we took the foot of the throttle for a second, he would try. He took a few meters and behind no one wanted to work more than necessary to avoid a counterattack. That was one of the reasons behind the time differences.
On Saturday's stage to Ancares, the race will be different. The climb today and the one to Ancares can’t be compared. Today was a stage like a Classic but Ancares is a high mountain out of category. 

Yes, sure I would have gone with him. Maybe in a couple of days I will regret this, but I don’t give it any significant importance right now."

Alejandro Valverde:
"When Froome attacked, there wasn't much cooperation behind: I pushed into the group from the beginning to not let the two go, but I always had to keep an eye on my side so Purito didn't attack, which was the thing he did all the time. Though we tried and we were closed in the final section, we couldn't catch them. Still, we must keep fighting because we're still in the mix. I don't really think Froome is doing better than us; he's physically level with us three, but he was simply smarter today and took advantage that we three were controlling each other. We already imagined Froome was going to contest the intermediate sprint and we sent team-mates ahead, but despite that, he managed to take second. We will have to keep full focus tomorrow and give everything we've got left on Saturday before the final TT."

Joaquim Rodriguez:
"The team did such a marvelous job. It’s a pity I could not finish off the job but I did everything I could.  Honestly Aru and Froome were a bit better than me today. The final podium will be hard to reach but I won’t give up and will continue fighting for that podium place and for a stage win".

Samuel Sanchez:
"I am satisfied with my performance today and I want to thank my teammates for the help they gave me. I felt good and I hope to continue like this until the end and try to move up at least one position in the general classification. The Vuelta is still long: two more tough stages and the last individual time trial. I think several things can still happen."

Warren Barguil:
“I feel that I have progressed a lot this race and am now in the position to be there attacking in the final but I must focus my energy and wait for the right moment to attack. I lost some time today and that’s a shame but I’m learning and I can’t wait for stage 20 this weekend.”

Koen De Kort (who abandoned):
“I had a saddle sore for the past few days but yesterday it got a lot worse and it got infected. The infection led to a real high fever last night and I could barely move – I couldn’t even get down for dinner. I had a bad night’s sleep but the fever had gone down so after some checks with the team’s medical staff I was given the all clear to start the stage. On the bike through I didn’t feel good and the pain was too much. If it was just saddle sore I could ride through it but I couldn’t carry on. I’m sad to leave the race but wish the guys good luck for the last few days.”




1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 3:47:17  
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky  
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:13  
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha  
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo  
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:00:17  
7 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:33  
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:48  
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale  
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano


1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 71:38:37  
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:19  
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:32  
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:29  
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:15  
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:06:52  
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:06:59  
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:09:12  
9 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:09:44  
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:09:45

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 149 pts

1 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 58 pts

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 7 pts

2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 7

1 Team Katusha 214:54:51  
2 Movistar Team 0:26:32  
3 Tinkoff - Saxo 0:32:55  
4 Cofidis, Solutions Crédits 0:34:05  

5 Team SKY 0:53:45  

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