A well-calculated surge of speed in the closing kilometers gave Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’S Ilnur Zakarin a second-place position on Sunday’s stage 15, but more importantly earned Zakarin a podium position in the general classification. Zakarin now holds third place in the 72nd Vuelta a España with one week of racing still to go.
“I am happy and I feel good, but I am so tired. A late attack was the best thing to do. It made no sense to attack Froome on the earlier Alto de Hazallanas as we all still felt the long, hard and windy stage of yesterday. The timing of my attack was perfect in my opinion. I know that climb and I know how dangerous the altitude can be. In the end it proved to be a good move,” said team captain Ilnur Zakarin.
“We are very happy. We were waiting for the last moment to attack because of the headwind. Once we saw that (leader) Chris Froome had only one rider with him, I asked Ilnur if he could attack in the last 3 kilometers and he did it, in a very good way. He got time on his competition for the podium. Kelderman was strong in his response, but Zakarin was stronger,” said sports director Dmitry Konyshev.
Attentive riding from Zakarin gave the Russian rider good timing to attack late in the race to take second on the stage and jump up to third place, despite a valiant effort from Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) to close the gap; he took third and dropped to fourth on the GC. A solo win by 36-seconds was earned by Miguel Ángel López of Astana on the 129k route from Alcala La Real to Sierra Nevada (Alto Hoya de la Mora), a move that originated when the Colombian rider responded to an early attack from Alberto Contador of Trek Segafredo.
The race lead still belongs to Chris Froome of Team Sky at 61-seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team). Zakarin is third at +2.08. Two weeks of solid and steadily-improving riding put Zakarin in full control of his destiny for the final week of the last grand tour of the season.
“Now I am 3rd overall. Of course I will try to keep this until the end. In the 3rd week normally I feel even better but there are still hard stages to come. The third week can change a lot, but I will be very happy if I can start as 3rd in GC after the TT of Tuesday,” concluded Zakarin.
Monday brings the second and final rest day in the 2017 Vuelta a España with stage 16 on Tuesday a long individual time trial. At 40.2km, the course begins with Circuito de Navarra and ends in Logroño as the race moves to the northern end of Spain.
Photo credit © Tim De Waele