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Vuelta: Quintana Takes Control

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It was a crazy day of attacking on the Vuelta.

JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

Nairo Quintana has done enough to put an airmail stamp and a Colombian address on the Vuelta trophy. An attack from a long way out won Gianluca Brambilla the stage, and him vital time. While he wasn't the man who started the move, that was Alberto Contador — who must now have a contractual obligation to make an attack with more than one hundred kilometres to go in each Grand Tour regardless of condition. He saw that Sky were absent from the front on a downhill stretch only seven kilometres into the one hundred and eighteen kilometre leg, and went for it, taking three team mates, Quintana and two team mates, plus a number of other opportunists with him. Chris Froome, Esteban Chaves, Simon Yates and Leopold Konig, the occupants of places two to five in the General Classification all missed the move — he made full use of its existence to put the Vuelta firmly in his grasp.

A delicate balancing act was performed by his Movistar team early on, with the Movistars not only helping on the front in Quintana's group, but also Froome's group, to isolate him totally. It worked perfectly, and Froome had to rely on the chasing done by Astana and Orica, which could only make the gap fluctuate between two and three minutes in the valley section, and on the early climbs.

The front group stayed mostly together, co-operating until reaching the bottom of the final ascent, when the team mates and hardest workers were dropped from each group, leaving Froome and Quintana having to pull through. There was no uphill time-trial scheduled for this Vuelta, but today we had the closest thing to one we were likely to get. Quintana led his group for much of the final climb, red-clad and hunched over his bike on the uneven gradients. Froome was a lot less comfortable however, and fell back through his group when the attacks started flying. Chaves especially took advantage of the slowing in pace to limit his losses with a fresh-legged move on the final climb. Meanwhile, Quintana took off, making his attack in the final three kilometres, in a group thinned to three. Contador the instigator, and Brambilla. Contador. grimacing, was the first of the trio to lose contact as Quintana ratcheted up the pace as the stage reached its climax. That left a last kilometre duel between the red jersey and the stage hunter, with Quintana empty after his mountain time-trial, allowing Brambilla to make his move at the two hundred metre mark and win the stage.

Brambilla Wins Vuelta STage 17

Quintana though, has not lost anything today. He now leads the Froome, who's still in second place, by three minutes and seconds, enough to hold him off comfortably in the time-trial. He owes his new situation to Contador's attack, which while well carried out and planned, could not be followed up with a stage win. Once again, he tried to follow Quintana, and found himself lacking. Froome meanwhile, was also found wanting today. He couldn't hold the pace on the final climb, and heads into the final week with a team who must have suffered some wounded pride. Today's superdomestique to plummet down the GC was Konig, who got dropped from both groups, and came in several minutes down.

1. ITABRAMBILLA Gianluca 131 ETIXX - QUICK STEP 02h 54' 30''
2. COLQUINTANA Nairo 7 MOVISTAR TEAM 02h 54' 33'' + 00' 03''
3. ITAFELLINE Fabio 96 TREK - SEGAFREDO 02h 54' 55'' + 00' 25''
4. FRAELISSONDE KENNY 71 FDJ 02h 54' 58'' + 00' 28''
5. ESPDE LA CRUZ David 133 ETIXX - QUICK STEP 02h 55' 01'' + 00' 31''
6. ESPCONTADOR Alberto 11 TINKOFF 02h 55' 04'' + 00' 34''
7. ITAFORMOLO Davide 145 CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM 02h 55' 23'' + 00' 53''
8. RUSMAMYKIN Matvey 116 TEAM KATUSHA 02h 55' 46'' + 01' 16''
9. COLCHAVES Johan Esteban 51 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 02h 56' 23'' + 01' 53''
10. ITASCARPONI Michele 61 ASTANA PRO TEAM 02h 56' 29'' + 01' 59''

1. COLQUINTANA Nairo 7 MOVISTAR TEAM 61h 36' 07''
2. GBRFROOME Christopher 21 TEAM SKY 61h 39' 44'' + 03' 37''
3. COLCHAVES Johan Esteban 51 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 61h 40' 04'' + 03' 57''
4. ESPCONTADOR Alberto 11 TINKOFF 61h 40' 09'' + 04' 02''
5. GBRYATES Simon 59 ORICA BIKEEXCHANGE 61h 41' 14'' + 05' 07''
6. ESPSANCHEZ GONZALEZ Samuel 37 BMC RACING TEAM 61h 42' 19'' + 06' 12''
7. USATALANSKY Andrew 141 CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM 61h 42' 50'' + 06' 43''
8. ITAFORMOLO Davide 145 CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM 61h 43' 24'' + 07' 17''
9. ESPDE LA CRUZ David 133 ETIXX - QUICK STEP 61h 43' 30'' + 07' 23''
10. ITASCARPONI Michele 61 ASTANA PRO TEAM 61h 43' 46'' + 07' 39''