Five talking points from stage five of the Vuelta a España 2017
Lutsenko's maiden Grand Tour win, Froome attacks again, and Nibali fades
Alexey Lutsenko delivers on long-term promise
All too often when a rider excels in the under-23 ranks he can disappear, or at least not come up with the results that were expected of him when he makes the step up to pro level.
Alexey Lutsenko has been once such rider since turning pro back in 2013, the year after winning the under-23 World Championships in Valkenburg, with half of his pro wins coming at the the lowly Tour of Almaty or Tour of Hainan.
However the Kazakh rider showed glimpses of his talent with a strong ride to finish third in Dwars Door Vlaanderen in the spring, and was unstoppable as he accelerated away from Marco Haller at the bottom of today’s final climb.
Even with Merhawi Kudus, on paper a stronger climber, in hot pursuit, Lutsenko never looked like fading, and crossed the line in glorious isolation for his first Grand Tour stage win.
Froome attacks once again
After taking the red jersey on stage three, Froome was once again not content to ride defensively, launching a sharp acceleration on one of the steeper sections of the climb to Ermita de Santa Lucia to dispatch all but four of his rivals.
This move didn’t force as much of a selection as his one on stage three, but was still enough to put the likes of Fabio Aru, Vincenzo Nibali, and Romain Bardet in trouble, while Esteban Chaves was once again present.
Coming into the Vuelta, Froome made no secret of his strong desire to add the Spanish Grand Tour to his palmarès, and on current evidence he’s looking not only to win it, but to win it in style.
Contador present and correct
After suffering from illness in the race’s first mountain stage and losing more than two-and-a-half minutes, Alberto Contador looked back to his best for stage five’s short, sharp uphill finish.
While team-mate and fellow patient John Degenkolb abandoned before the start, Contador looked in full fighting shape as he seemed comfortable in covering Froome’s acceleration.
The Spaniard then continued in comfort all the way to the finish, while Tejay Van Garderen was dropped, leading Froome, Chaves, and the impressive Michael Woods over the line.
Unfortunately his disaster on the road to Andorra looks to have scuppered any chances of a final red jersey before retirement, or maybe it will just encourage one last long-range attack. We’ll see.
Nibali and Bardet lose time
Before the race started, both Chris Froome and Alberto Contador tipped Vincenzo Nibali as a major threat for the general classification.
However, despite winning the stage two days ago, the Italian looked far from his best on the final climb, losing nearly half a minute to the leading GC contenders, with team-mate Valerio Agnoli having to slow to usher him through the final few hundred metres.
The only way it could have been worse for Nibali was if he had been Romain Bardet, who finished a further 23 seconds behind, also having to be helped along by team-mate Domenico Pozzovivo.
Moscon still finding his rhythm
It was a case of déjà-vu for Team Sky and Gianni Moscon on today’s final climb, as the young Italian once again set a searing pace to set up a Chris Froome attack.
On stage three Moscon rode so hard that he dropped Wout Poels and Froome had to tell him to slow down, something which seemed to the be the case again today.
Of course Chris Froome never looks the most elegant on a bike, but he seemed to be in particular discomfort as his legs whirred away and he alternated between looking at his power meter and glancing up at Moscon’s back wheel as he tried to keep pace.
Ultimately, Moscon did his job of thinning the group and teeing up Froome’s attack, but it’ll be interesting to see if his riding changes over the next two-and-a-half weeks.