Double delight for Contador
Surprise move turns the Vuelta on its head
Last Updated: September 5, 2012 6:02pm
Alberto Contador produced a surprise attack on 17th stage of the Vuelta a Espana which saw him take a fine stage victory, and move to the top of the overall standings.
The Spaniard distanced his closest rivals on the Collado La Hoz, and with the help of former team-mate Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), opened up an unassailable lead as he began the long drag up to Fuente De.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was able to muster a reply, eventually finishing six seconds back in second place, but overnight leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) looked shell-shocked in comparison, and rolled home in 10th place, 2min 38sec adrift.
Those results meant that Contador took control of the red jersey and opened up a 1min 52sec advantage over Valverde in the general classification, with Rodriguez 2min 28sec adrift in third.
Chris Froome meanwhile, endured another tough day in the saddle, finishing in 32nd place, but did retain his fourth place overall, where he now trails Contador by 9min 40sec.
The action had been hotly-contested from the off with over 48 kilometres covered during the opening hour of racing.
When an 11-man move did eventually move clear after 80km, Team Sky's Danny Pate was present and he remained ahead with six others as they crested the Collado de Ozalba.
That group was swept up on the Collado La Hoz, and it was shortly after that when Contador made the move which would catch his closest rivals completely unaware.
He and Tiralongo (Astana) were 1min 50sec ahead as they approached the final ascent up to Fuente DÃ©, with Tiralongo peeling off inside the final 12km as Contador pressed on alone.
Only Valverde could produce a determined chase, and aided by team-mates Nairo Quintana and Benat Inxausti, he caught a three-man chase group containing Team Sky's Sergio Henao within 3km of the summit.
That quartet continued to reduce the arrears in the closing stages, but Contador held on for a potentially-decisive victory before Valverde denied Henao second place at the line.