Contador Wins Stage 20 of Vuelta a Espana; Extends Overall Lead
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) has put an exclamation point on the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. The Spaniard surged away from Chris Froome (Sky Pro Cycling) with 500 m left to take Stage 20, the race’s final mountain stage. Contador took the stage win in 5:11:43. Froome settled for second at 0:16, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar - Canyon Bikes) finished third at 0:57. Contador extended his overall lead and is poised to win the race when it ends tomorrow in Santiago de Compostela.
After a number of abortive sallies, the break of the day formed at 30 km. Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Maxime Mederel (Europcar), and Przemyslav Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) got clear, and Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) joined the trio eight km later. The quartet led the field by 10:30 at 79 km.
Sky began to chase. At the summit of the day’s first categorized climb, the Category 2 Alto de Vilaesteva (110 km), the bunch had narrowed the gap to 6:47.
Astana joined Sky at the front. On the Category 1 Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas, Poels was dropped. At this point, the escapees were 0:45 ahead of the bunch.
On the descent, Niemiec attacked. Coppel caught the Pole, and the pair began the special category climb to the finish. Mederel trailed them by about 0:10.
The pursuit was relentless. The Sky-led peloton reeled in Mederel at the base of the climb. Niemiec dropped Coppel, but the bunch reeled in the Lampre-Merida man with 10 km left. As the grade steepened, a number of riders in the red jersey group were dropped, among them Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team).
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) attacked. Eventually, Valverde set out after the Katusha man. Froome, Contador, and Fabio Aru (Astana) followed.
With seven km to go, Froome attacked. The Briton put in an attack that dropped Aru. Contador took a moment but fought his way back to the Sky man.
Froome attacked several more times. He dropped Valverde and caught and dropped Rodriguez. Belong long, only Contador was in his wake.
At the one-km banner, Froome made one more attempt. Contador withstood the attack and countered with 500 m left. The Spaniard dropped the Briton and powered home to take his second stage win of this year’s Vuelta and to secure the overall win. Behind, Valverde dropped Rodriguez to remain in second place overall.
In the overall, Contador leads Froome by 1:37 and Valverde by 2:35. Only tomorrow’s 9.7-km individual time trial remains of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. The short, flat, technical course will not produce big GC changes because it is short and because the gaps between the top GC riders are set. Only 17 seconds separate Sanchez in sixth from Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp-POC) in seventh, and only six seconds separate Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) in ninth from Damiano Caruso (Cannondale Pro Cycling) in 10th. Look for Froome to win. Will any other GC shifts occur? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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