Five talking points from stage six of the Vuelta a España 2017
Marczynski wins, Contador on the attack, and van Garderen's bad luck
Tomasz Marczynski’s first Grand Tour win
Tomasz Marczynski has been around the block a bit since turning pro back in 2006, including two spells dropping down to Continental level, most recently with Torku Şekerspor just two years ago.
However this journeyman’s career taking in six different pro teams was probably all made worthwhile with his first Grand Tour stage win, in only his second Grand Tour, more than two years on from his last pro win at the lowly Tour of the Black Sea.
The Pole used all of his experience to pull off the stage win, sitting second wheel through the final few hundred metres, letting Enric Mas lead the sprint out, while Pawel Poljanski stalked behind.
In the end Marczynski was just too strong at the end of a long, hot day in the saddle, crossing the line to win in emphatic style, denying Quick-Step Floors their third victory of the race.
Van Garderen’s nightmare day
There have been quite a few GC contenders who have suffered off days early on this Vuelta, but none have suffered quite the same bad luck as Tejay van Garderen today.
Van Garderen suffered his first crash on the descent of the Puerto del Garbi on an apparently innocuous stretch of road, appearing to hit some sort of road defect and coming down at the same point as Axel Domont and Jesper Hansen had crashed moments earlier.
Quickly back on his bike, Van Garderen was only 20 seconds behind the red jersey when he punctured in the final five kilometres.That fixed, he then crashed on a roundabout while trying to chase back on.
Somehow, despite all of that, the American only lost 17 seconds to the other GC contenders. Not a great result, but far from the disaster it could have been for Van Garderen considering his nightmare day.
Contador on the attack
Coming on the back of a tough uphill finish to Ermita Santa Lucia, and with the final climb more than 40km from the finish in Sagunt, today was the sort of stage that could so easily have passed by with no GC action.
However no one told that to Alberto Contador, who was on the attack on the final climb, bridging across to Jarlinson Pantano and Trek-Segafredo tried to execute a plan to recoup the Spaniard’s time losses from stage three.
For a while Contador had manage to drop all but a handful of riders, before a lack of cooperation on the descent and flatter roads that followed brought the move to an end.
This move may not have come off, but we can be sure of more bold attacks from Contador over the next couple of weeks, with today serving as a reminder of why he’ll be missed.
Froome holds himself back…
For once in this Vuelta, Chris Froome wasn’t on the attack, generally content to follow the wheels as Contador attempted to split the race on the day’s final climb.
The race leader had been on the offensive on both of the previous hilly days, stage three to Andorra la Vella and stage five to Ermita Santa Lucia, but was being conservative today, refusing to cooperate with Contador as he tried to keep the group away on the run towards the finish.
However Froome still had to give one final show of strength, sprinting for the line and finishing third in his group in the all important sprint for sixth place.
… but is left isolated
If there’s one slight cause for concern for Froome, it’s that he was quickly left without team-mates when Contador attacked.
Wout Poels was there for a while, but was dropped when the group caught Pantano and the Colombian then set a fast tempo on the front.
That left Froome isolated with no team-mates for company, a scenario that didn’t result in any damage today, but could prove a problem when the race starts to hit the really big mountains, especially if his rivals could put men up the road.