Stage/Finish: Getxo › Balcón de Bizkaia
Distance: 157 kilometers - hilly
Weather: 75F/23C - sunny
Images ©Chris Auld
After a rest day and TT day, I’d hoped I’d feel a little livelier than I did today. There’s no denying it was Stage 17, and the body and mind are feeling it.
Like just about every other stage, we had a tough seven-kilometer climb after the start that we knew would be decisive for the break.
I was out of the fight before we even hit the bottom as we barreled through a sketchy city from kilometer 0 and played a high stakes game of chicken through tons of roundabouts and narrow sections. I worked my way up toward the front as we hit the climb, but the break had already formed, and we had Dylan and De Marchi up there once again.
It was a classic Basque Country stage with lots of uncategorized climbing and urban sections. It never feels like we roll along but instead pinballing through cities and up and down mountains.
The last climb was another Vuelta special with sections 20 percent and some insane fans. I rode up with local Basque hero Mikel Irizar and the cheering for him was incredible and deafening. The road was only visible when the fans parted the moment before we ran into them.
Upfront, Dylan was locked into a tight battle for the stage win and narrowly got edged out by Mike Woods. Dylan earned five top 5 stage finishes at this race — completely incredible persistence and consistency -- but of course he really wants that win.
Again, the stage wasn’t over at the top of the climb, and we navigated another 25 minutes back to the bus as I nursed a flat front tire for the final few kilometers.
We were still weaving through thousands of fans that were all in a hurry to get back to their cars. Somehow our 157-km stage turned into 180 km of riding over 5.5 hours. A few more hours in the car to wind down and get closer to Catalonia where in theory we should have a flatter day tomorrow.