Mathias Frank strongest on Vuelta’s intimidating climb

After several foiled attempts that involved polka dot jersey holder Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and his main rival Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), a breakaway eventually took shape after 50 kilometres with the following 27 riders – Dario Cataldo (Astana), Imanol Erviti and José Herrada (Movistar), Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Michal Golas and Leopold König (Sky), Silvan Dillier (BMC), Robert Gesink and Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Simon Gerrans and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Haimar Zubeldia (Trek-Segafredo), Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank, Marcel Wyss and Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Christoph Pfingsten and Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Pello Bilbao and Jaime Roson (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie).

They had an advantage of 5 minutes with 110km left while Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quick Step), who was chasing alone, joined them later. In the early action, Fraile was first at the top of the first climb of the day, the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas (2nd category), to reduce the gap with Elissonde down to three points. Two hard weeks of racing and the heat claimed the scalp of Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who abandoned after less than two hours of racing. The breakaway’s lead rose up to 7:30 with 70km left when BMC started to pull at the front of the pack.

With 29km remaining, Cataldo and Frank attacked and when entering the Camins del Penyagolosa they were about 20 seconds ahead of the chasing group at the foot of the much-feared Alto Mas de la Costa –3.8km at 12.5 per cent with gradients reaching 21 pc. The peloton, led by Movistar, were some minutes off the pace. With 2.5km left, Frank was on his own and Cataldo hung on a dozen seconds behind before being caught by Gesink, Konig and Herrada.

Konig and Gesink chased Frank but the Swiss was too strong and finished 6 seconds ahead of Konig and beat Gesink, who won at top of the Col d’Aubisque, by 11 seconds. Further down the road, Contador attacked the group of favourites and was joined by Quintana and Chaves. They were joined by Froome, who struggled to respond to Contador’s acceleration, and the four finished together.

Vuelta a Espana 2016 – stage 17 results (Castellón – Llucena):

1 Mathias Frank (IAM)


2 Leopold Konig (Sky)


3 Robert Gesink (LottoNl-Jumbo)


4 Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA)


5 Dario Cataldo (Astana)


6 José Herrada (Movistar)


7 Axel Domont (AG2R)


8 Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal)


9 Kristijan Durasek (Lampre – Merida)


10 Haimar Zubeldia (Trek-Segafredo)



General classification after stage 17:

1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar)


2 Christopher Froome (Sky)


3 Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange)


4 Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)


5 Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)


6 Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac)


7 Samuel Sanchez (BMC)


8 Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac)


9 Michele Scarponi (Astana)


10 David De La Cruz (Etixx – Quick-Step)