Lotto Soudal's Thomas De Gendt won Stage 19 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana on Friday, a tricky transitional ride ahead of the Queen stage on Saturday.
The Belgian beat his fellow breakaway riders in a sprint, while the favourites in the general classification let them ride. Team Sky's Chris Froome still leads with just two stages to go.
Here's a look at the stage results, via cycling comentator Jose Been:
José Been @TourDeJose
Stage 19 #LV2017 1. De Gendt (LTS) 2. Pantano (TFS) 3. Garcia (TBM) 4. Rui Costa (UAD) 5. De Tier (TLJ)2017-9-8 15:29:27
Friday's ride from Caso to Gijon featured a tricky profile, but with the dreaded Angliru climb on the schedule for Saturday, the favourites for the GC were expected to conserve their energy.
Here's a look at the stage profile for Friday, via Tour de France COL:
Tour de France COL @letour_col
Inicia la etapa 19 de @lavuelta 🚩Caso. Parque Natural de Redes > 🏁Gijón 🚴 149,7 km + info ➡ https://t.co/X3NWnwKYFf #LV2017 https://t.co/EBAxQ42E732017-9-8 11:21:12
With the GC contenders sitting tight in the peloton, the rest of the field got busy attacking, knowing there were few chances at a stage win left. A total of 19 riders managed to escape, and the group contained some serious firepower, with Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) and Nicolas Roche (BMC) among the biggest names.
Cannondale-Drapac's Davide Villella improved his lead in the mountain classification along the way, part of a clear strategy ahead of the fearsome Angliru:
#LV2017 Ten points for @Davide_villella atop the Alto de la Colladona; "I'm not done. I'm still alive." https://t.co/BQOuIizBrs2017-9-8 12:52:33
A group headed by AG2R's Romain Bardet bridged the gap, setting things up for a great finale. Ivan Garcia of Bahrain-Merida tried his luck solo and started the final climb with a 57-second advantage.
Bardet went after the Bahrain-Merida man with an explosive attack and quickly closed the gap, catching Garcia near the summit. The two worked together in the descent, setting up a time-trial between the duo and the chasing group in the final kilometres.
Roche and Rui Costa bridged the gap, but the cameras quickly turned back at the same time, as Trek's Alberto Contador attacked the race leader from the base of the final climb.
Cycling writer Neal Rogers loved it:
Neal Rogers @nealrogers
Contador attacks, goes clear on his own. Because, Contador. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of this style of racing. #LV20172017-9-8 15:17:29
At the front, everything came back together on the flat roads, and De Gendt was the fastest man in the sprint. Contador couldn't maintain his lead over the peloton, as he was caught inside of three kilometres of the finish line.
Sunday's stage will be all about the Angliru, a ridiculously steep climb that has only featured in the Vuelta a few times.
Global Cycling Network did a feature on the ascent:
Froome remains the clear favourite to win this year's Vuelta, and all that's left for him to do is survive Saturday's hard stage and not crash on Sunday. His rivals will undoubtedly attack him early and often on Saturday, making tomorrow's stage must-watch television.