GUADALAJARA, Spain – Mastering strong winds that pushed riders to speeds of 46 mph, veteran Philippe Gilbert won his second Spanish Vuelta stage on Wednesday, while Primoz Roglic lost a few seconds from his overall lead after a charge by Nairo Quintana.
Gilbert beat Sam Bennett in the final sprint of the 136.4-mile 17th stage, the longest of the three-week race that ends Sunday in Madrid.
Remi Cavagna, Gilbert’s teammate with Deceuninck-Quick Step, finished third in one of the fastest Vuelta stages due to the winds that took riders to an average speed of about 31 mph.
“It was crazy from the gun,” said Gilbert, a 37-year-old Belgian who had also won the 12th stage. “It was really fast. At some point we were doing, even on the flat, 46 mph. In 17 years as a pro, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. It was really, really crazy.”
Roglic, who has worn the overall leader’s red jersey since the 10th stage, saw Quintana reduce his lead to 2 minutes, 24 seconds. The former ski jumper from Slovenia was nearly three minutes ahead of the pack after Monday’s 16th stage. Quintana’s Movistar teammate, Alejandro Valverde, dropped from second to third overall as he failed to keep up with Quintana on Wednesday.
“It was a hard day. I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have been where I was, I should have been in the front,” Roglic said. “The team saved me with a big effort. We’re still in a really good position. It was a hard day for everyone. We lost a battle today, but not the war. We’ll see in Madrid, but things are still looking really good for us.”
Quintana was among the riders who broke away early and held on at the front.
“We will give everything we have until the end,” the 29-year-old Colombian said. “The team helped me the entire day. The strategy was very good. We are still in the fight.”
Riding in support of Roglic, Durango’s Sepp Kuss finished 107th during Wednesday’s stage, as he was 24:31 off the winning time. He is now 26th overall.
Riders were coming off the race’s last rest day on Tuesday.
They face a tough mountain stage of 110.3 miles on Thursday with four Category 1 climbs. Kuss, who won Stage 15 in the mountains, will have yet another chance to shine.
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.