Froome’s Vuelta lead cut by Nibali as Denifl wins stage 17

Stefan Denifl

Stefan Denifl rides for Aqua Blue Sport, who are competing in their first major tour

Britain’s Chris Froome had his lead cut by 42 seconds as Austrian Stefan Denifl won stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana.

Froome, who won Tuesday’s time trial, struggled on the gruelling final climb to Los Machucos, conceding time to second placed Vincenzo Nibali.

The Italian, who finished fourth on the stage, now trails Froome by one minute and 16 seconds overall.

Aqua Blue Sport rider Denifl won by 28 seconds ahead of Spain’s Alberto Contador, who retires after the race.

Irish team Aqua Blue Sport are competing in their first major tour and had their bus destroyed in an arson attack earlier in the Vuelta.

  • Stage by stage guide and results

Wednesday’s stage was a 180.5km ride from Villadiego to Los Machucos, with a final ascent of 7km – featuring gradients of 31% near the bottom, 15% in the middle and 12.5% at the top.

Denifl, 29, attacked out of a breakaway with 5km to go, to hold off Contador’s brave chase and gain his first stage win on a Grand Tour.

Three-time winner Contador boosted his chances of a podium finish in Madrid on Sunday, gaining time on his rivals, with Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez finishing third.

Froome, who is aiming to complete the Tour de France and Vuelta double, could not stay with Nibali on the final climb, crossing the line in 14th place.

There are four stages remaining including Sunday’s traditional parade around Madrid.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys gradients over 25% but that’s just how it is and it’s the same for all of us,” said four-time Tour de France champion Froome, 32.

“It’s never nice to lose time but I feel good. Three more days and I’m confident we can get the job done.”

Thursday’s stage 18 is a reasonably flat 169km route from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liebana.

Stage 17 result

1. Stefan Denifl (Aus/Aqua Blue Sport) 4hrs 48mins 52secs

2. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +28secs

3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana Pro Team) +1mins 04secs

4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) Same time

5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) Same time

6. Rafal Majka (Pol/BORA-hansgrohe) Same time

7. Michael Woods (Can/ Cannondale-Drapac) +1mins 13secs

8. Daniel Moreno (Spa/Movistar Team) +1mins 17secs

9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1mins 19secs

10. David De La Cruz (Spa/Quick-Step Floors) +1mins 42secs

General classification

1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 67hrs 44min 03secs

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Bahrain-Merida) +1mins 16secs

3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Team Sunweb) +2mins 13secs

4. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus/Katusha-Alpecin) +2mins 25secs

5. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +3mins 34secs

6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana Pro Team) +4mins 39secs

7. Michael Woods (Can/Cannondale-Drapac) +6mins 33secs

8. Wout Poels (Ned/Team Sky) +6mins 40secs

9. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana Pro Team) +6mins 45secs

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