Vuelta a Espana: Alberto Contador extends overall lead with solo victory on stage 20
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 13/09/14 6:34pm
Alberto Contador took a huge leap towards overall victory at the Vuelta a Espana by extending his race lead with a solo win on stage 20.
The 31-year-old Spaniard shadowed Chris Froome all of the way up the especial-category climb to the summit finish on Puerto de Ancares and then rode away from his closest rival with an attack inside the final kilometre.
He crossed the line 16 seconds ahead of runner-up Froome and with bonus seconds taken into account, he now takes a 1min 37sec lead over the Briton into Sunday’s race-ending 9.7km individual time trial in Santiago de Compostela, where only a disastrous performance will deny him a third Vuelta title.
Alejandro Valverde finished the stage in third place to retain the same position in the general classification, but his 57-second deficit on the day sees him drop to 2min 35sec down overall.
Final summit finish
The 185.7km 20th stage ended with the race’s eighth and final summit finish, a 12.7km ascent averaging 8.7 per cent in gradient and reaching a maximum of 18 per cent.
After the last of the day’s four-man breakaway had been caught with 9.7km remaining, the battle between the general classification contenders ignited and soon there was only the top five in the overall standings left at the head of the race.
Rodriguez (Katusha), who started the day 57 seconds adrift of Valverde, launched an attack 8.9km out as he looked to steal the final place on the podium from his fellow Spaniard, quickly opening up a lead of around 17 seconds on the chasing quartet led by Froome (Team Sky).
Valverde (Movistar) mounted a short-lived counter-attack, but was then dropped after Froome took matters into his own hands with an acceleration 6.2km from home that only Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) could follow.
Repeated Froome attacks
A second attack from the Briton then drew himself and Contador level with Rodriguez, and he then accelerated for a third time as he tried and failed to drop the race leader.
Rodriguez could not handle the tempo being set by Froome and fell away with 4.2km to go, but Contador remained on his wheel and stayed there all the way to the 1km-to-go banner.
By now Froome was exhausted by his efforts and he could offer no response when Contador launched his first and decisive attack with around 700m remaining.
Stage 20 result
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, 5:11:34
2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +16sec
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +57
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +1:18
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +1:21
6 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano, +2:51
7 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha, +2:55
8 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing, +2:58
9 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, +3:15
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, +3:20
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +1:37
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +2:35
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +3:57
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +4:46
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing, +10:07
7 Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp, +10:24
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano, +12:13
9 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, +13:09
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, +13:15