Two more stages down and we are now within spitting distance of the red jersey! Stage 17 provided the predicted excitement with cross winds splitting the field in the final. Chris along with Markel, Fabian, and Robert were alert and well positioned to make sure they made the split. Avoiding the damage there was essential. Then there was yesterday's stage 18, which we pegged as another opportunity for Chris to attack Nibali. The stage was a little hectic with some wind in the beginning and some fast, narrow descents/roads throughout the day, but we came through it strongly and delivered Chris to the bottom of the final climb in the front. Gregory, Popo, and Markel drove it into the base of the climb, at which point Ben took a hard pull for a few hundred meters, followed by me for almost a kilometer. It wasn't necessarily the plan to attack or take control at the bottom of the climb, but we were motivated and knew Chris felt good, so it was just natural. After I pulled off, Robert stayed with Chris for the next bit until the attacks blew things to bits on the steep slopes. Chris showed again that he is incredibly strong, being the nest of the GC favorites. He took another 25 seconds out of Nibali and is now just 3 seconds from taking the red jersey.
Today's stage 19 does feature some climbs in the finale, including an uphill finish, but it isn't likely to be decisive. Anything can happen, but we're really expecting it all to come down to Saturday's stage to the Angliru. The team is motivated and believes 100% in Chris, so we're going to give everything to see him wearing the red jersey in Madrid! Send us strength and luck!