Ireland’s only Pro-Cycling team, Aqua Blue Sport, riding in its first Grand Tour has won Stage 17 of La Vuelta with the victory of Stefan Denifl on Wednesday.
The Austrian claimed the biggest success of his professional cycling career so far when winning the 180 kilometres stage which finished on top of the super steep Alto de Los Machucos climb in the northern reaches of Spain.
Denifl started the day in the breakaway and rode strongly towards the last climb, taking maximum climbing points on the Puertos de Alisas. At the bottom of the last ascent he accelerated as the riders at the front hit the early steep sections.
Denifl made the most of the brutal slopes of the alto de Los Machucos to solo away from his last breakaway companions. In the favourites group, Chris Froome (Team Sky) couldn’t react when Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) accelerated with 6km to go. He was also unable to follow Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) as the Italian set a hard pace. Contador finished second of the stage only 28 seconds behind Denifl.
Denifl gave his reaction after crossing the finishing line:
“It all began 17 racing days ago and we all have been working towards today. It has been a long journey. We have many guys and it is their first grand tour for them. I was hoping somehow to help them a little bit and let them know how hard it was going to be. I have been getting better day by day and already on the rest day on Monday I started to feel pretty good. My goal was to be on a level on the last week of the Vuelta where I can win a stage. It just happened today it is just amazing.”