Gilbert claims Vuelta stage double, Roglic retains lead

AFP
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert has won stages at all three Grand Tours (AFP Photo/OSCAR DEL POZO)
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert has won stages at all three Grand Tours (AFP Photo/OSCAR DEL POZO)

Guadalajara (Spain) (AFP) - Belgian veteran Philippe Gilbert claimed a second win at this year's Vuelta a Espana on Wednesday as Slovenian Primoz Roglic remained in the lead but with a new challenger.

Deceuninck-Quick Step's Gilbert, 37, backed up his victory on day 12 in Bilbao with a powerful finish on the flat in Guadalajara to pip Irish rider Sam Bennett.

Former winner Nairo Quintana, who started the day sixth overall, jumped to second.

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The trio were part of a breakaway group of more than 40 riders to escape in windy conditions just after the start of in Wednesday's 17th stage. After aggressive riding on the longest day of this year's Vuelta, 14 survivors finished more than five minutes ahead of the pack.

"It was a very special one. I think it's the kind of stage that will stay in history, because of the way we rode. It was crazy from the gun," Gilbert said.

"Sometimes on the flat we even went at 75kph. Throughout my career I have never done this. And that after 17 years," he added.

Race leader Roglic, who signed a new contract with his Jumbo Visma team on Tuesday, finished in the main pack with most of the other general standings rivals, including Alejandro Valverde and fellow countryman Tadej Pogacar but was unhappy the his team had to spend the day chasing.

"I made a mistake," said Roglic.

"I shouldn't have been in the position I was – I should have been totally in front. Maybe we lost the battle today, but not the war.

"It's still looking really good," he added.

Quintana rocketed to second, 2min 48sec behind Roglic and 56sec ahead of Valverde.

Quick-Step placed seven of its eight riders in the breakaway which escaped in cross-tail winds. The team was rewarded with Gilbert's 11th Grand Tour stage victory and with Briton James Knox breaking into the top 10 of the overall leaderboard.

Gilbert's patient work paid off in the final moments.

Bennett, who had won two sprints earlier in the race, burst clear with 500m to go but, with 200m left, Gilbert took the lead and finished two seconds of the Bora-Hansgrohe rider.

Thursday's 177.5km mountainous stage 18 includes four challenging climbs before arriving at Becerril de la Sierra, to the north-west of Madrid.

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