For once we get to watch a grand tour procession for someone other than Chris Froome. Nairo Quintana now has a lead of three minutes and 37 seconds over Froome at 2016 Vuelta a Espana, which is practically insurmountable with just five stages left. Quintana, 26, is in his prime, and though he has yet to shake Froome’s grasp on the Tour de France, sewing up the red jersey would signal that he’ll be ready for next year’s challenge.
Stage 17 will be pivotal for Froome if he has any notion of overtaking Quintana. The stage features yet another sadistic mountain top finish, this time after 177.5 kilometers and three Category 2 or 3 climbs. NBC Sports Gold will once once again stream the stage live for subscribers beginning at 9 a.m. ET.
Racing itself will begin at approximately 7 a.m. in Castellón. It could be a puncher’s day over relatively non-threatening climbs before a steep — plus-20 percent gradients! — but short — just four kilometers! — final ascent to Llucena/Camins del Penyagolosa. It isn’t a great day to shake up the general classification, but Froome needs every second he can gain and will be among the favorites to win before the even more decisive Stage 19 time trial and Stage 20 mountain top finish on an especial climb.
Quintana just needs to hold serve, and stay upright please. He’s on his way to a second career grand tour win, this against a field that looks a lot like the one he’ll face next July. This could be his annunciation, and the 2017 Tour his crowning.
Vuelta a Espana Stage 17 profile
Profile courtesy of the Vuelta’s official site.
Vuelta a Espana coverage for Stage 17 on Wednesday
Start time: 7 a.m. ET
Route: 177.5 kilometers from Castellón to Llucena/ Camins del Penyagolosa
Live streaming: NBC Sports Gold (subscription required), beginning at 9 a.m. ET
TV: Universal HD, 7-9 p.m. (replay)