Vicenzo Nibali nabbed 41 seconds on Chris Froome on Wednesday’s brutal Stage 17 to Los Machucos. With three mountain stages left, Stage 17’s raid by Nibali is enough to give hope to a field that looked to be resigned for riding for podium spots. Commentators and journalists all noted that the general chat of the GC riders was focused more on gaps between the top six, not to Froome’s lead after a demonstrative ride from the Sky man on Stage 16’s time trial.
Toss all that out now, with Contador cementing himself in the top five and taking nearly two minutes on Froome, though an overall win would still be something of a miracle. However, he’s shown himself a willing engine to any attack on Froome, and it would be no surprise to see him pair with the likes of Nibali or Ilnur Zakarin in the next few days.
Nibali’s best chance is likely on the Angliru, which is the final summit finish of the race on Saturday. Thursday’s finish atop a CAT 3 summit might be an opportunity to nip back a handful of seconds if Froome is still struggling, but the nearly vertical, cruel grades of the Angliru are ideal. Froome’s only weak point this year has been on the seriously steep stuff, and the Angliru is harder and longer than today’s climb. It’s steep, it’s narrow, the fans will play a role…anything can happen.
Want a preview? Look no further than the 2013 Vuelta, where Nibali attacked a dozen times trying to dislodge a #SoDope Chris Horner.