Rigoberto Uran won stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday after a swashbuckling high-altitude struggle to a mountaintop monastery in Extremadura as defending champion Primoz Roglic withdrew injured.
Aiming for a fourth straight Vuelta Roglic was a non-starter due to injuries from a fall Tuesday when he was trying to gain time on race leader Remco Evenepoel, who Wednesday lost five seconds to his closest rival Movistar’s Enric Mas.
The Belgian leads by 2min 01sec with 19-year-old Juan Ayuso of UAE in third.
“We have to do something,” Mas, a two-time Vuelta runner-up said, already thinking about the four peaks on Thursday’s stage 18.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow, but if we have good legs and a good feeling, and the atmosphere in the team is super good, we have to do something,” he added.
Colombia’s Uran was completing a collection of stage wins in all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
The 35-year-old, a previous runner-up on both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia was amongst a long range escape who began an internecine struggle up the final slope with the lead changing hands several times.
“It’s beautiful to win in the Vuelta,” said Uran. “I’ve been looking for this win for years.”
“We always have to believe and fight, even if sometimes the results seems far off,” he said.
The 22-year-old Belgian Evenepoel enjoyed a lead of almost three minutes at one point earlier in the race, but suffered the loss of crucial teammate Julian Alaphilippe to injury.
Stage 18 and 20 feature multiple mountains when Mas will hope to attack Evenepoel.
In the fight for the green sprint points jersey Denmark’s Mads Pedersen now has 349pts to Fred Wright’s 149.
Australian Jay Vine of Alpecin retains the polka dot jersey after his two mountain stage wins and has a good chance of keeping it all the way to Madrid.