Likely to be the last bunch kick for the sprinters, Stage 17’s 190.7km trip from Ortigueira to A Coruña will be heavily targeted by the fast men, but no promises shall be made over its rolling terrain. Though a breakaway could take the win here today, given that the sprinters will have no further chances to take a stage win, it would be embarrassing for them to let this slip away from under their noses’.
Despite not appearing completely level on the official stage profile, none of the uphill sections are categorised during the day and the concluding 1.5km are flat. A small climb is present at 3.5km, but even if anyone should get away, the resulting 1.5km as mentioned will be enough to reel them in. The risk factor for anyone wanting a bunch sprint is the possibility of a strong medium sized group still being away with 5km left in conduction with a poorly organised chase behind.
A lot has changed since we last had to consider a possible sprint finish; Nacer Bouhanni has gone home, Giant-Shimano lost Lawson Craddock and Astana are firmly backing Fabio Aru over Andrea Guardini. All of this could result in a lack of firepower when it comes to chasing a breakaway down in the last 25km. FDJ.fr certainly have no reason to chip in with the workload of John Degenkolb’s Giant-Shimano teammates for example, but they should find some aid in the shape of Orica-GreenEDGE, Lampre-Merida and possibly even OPQS. Michael Matthews, Robert Ferrari and Tom Boonen being the reasons behind this, but none have show enough evidence on such terrain to suggest they will get the better of John Degenkolb. Matthews looks in good form, but the finish is not really tough enough to play into his hands for a late surge to the line. With good positioning and a late surge, Roberto Ferrari can be a major threat on some days and displayed this during the first sprint of this year’s Vuelta. In the last bunch quick, Tom Boonen was a solid second place and looked to have had the legs to take the win with a bit more road, he will fancy Stage 17 as the course’s rolling nature will entice him to have a serious go.
Even after crashing hard, John Degenkolb has proven how strong he is by continuing to beat the best sprinters around him when the terrain is favourable. Stage 17 should be the same yet again, a simple enough finish and the strongest remaining lead out team in the Vuelta will only require Degenkolb to strut his stuff and unleash his raw speed to win again. Tom Boonen is clearly tapering his form nicely for the World Championships and could use this day as a dry-run by pushing Degenkolb close for the win.
1st Degenkolb 2nd Boonen 3rd Ferrari