Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and the rest of the peloton in Vuelta a España were in for a very challenging day on the bike on stage 17. Jacques Janse van Rensburg (photo) was the team’s top-finisher on his 30th birthday.
As usual, numerous riders tried to attack right from the beginning of the stage. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had both Lachlan Morton and Janse van Rensburg trying to make into the final break. However, ultimately, it didn’t work out as six other riders managed to get away. Led by Team Sky, the peloton didn’t seem interested in bringing back the break and the gap quickly went up to over nine minutes.
When the front group took on the last 100 km of the stage, Astana and BORA-hansgrohe started to work hard in the peloton, which instantly caused the gap to come down. With 50 km to go, only three minutes separated the pack from the breakaway and as the front group started on the last two difficult climbs, the gap was down to just two minutes.
On the final ascent of the day, with gradients up to nearly 30 %, Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport) dropped his breakaway companions and went gunning for the stage win. Several of the overall favorites attacked from the peloton but none of them managed to bring back Denifl who soloed to victory. Janse van Rensburg put up a good fight to stay with the group of favorites for as long as possible, celebrating his birthday with a very tough day in the saddle. Ultimately, the South African crossed the line in 46th place.
The leading rider, Chris Froome (Team Sky), lost a bit of time to his rivals but he still kept the red jersey. Tomorrow awaits another undulating stage for the riders as they take on the 169 km from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liébana. Especially the second part of the stage is hard with several categorized climbs before the short uphill finish.
Jacques Janse van Rensburg:
“It’s a pity I didn’t make it into the breakaway today. Both me and Lachlan [Morton] tried but it’s really difficult with only two guys. We were both in a few good moves but there were so many riders trying to get away. I felt quite good on the bike today, so I decided to push on a bit while still conserving some energy for the next two days. Hopefully, we can get into the right move and end this Vuelta on a high”.