MONTE CASTROVE, Spain, Sept 11, 2014 (AFP) – Italy’s Fabio Aru sprinted to
victory in Thursday’s 18th stage of the Tour of Spain as Briton Chris Froome
closed in on overall race leader Alberto Contador of Spain.
Astana rider Aru, already winner at altitude on the 11th stage at San
Miguel de Aralar, benefited on the final sprint from the support of Sky team
leader Froome, who clawed precious seconds from Contador to take second place
in the overall standings from Alejandro Valverde.
Froome, the 2013 Tour de France winner, is now 1min 19sec behind red jersey
holder Contador, the 2008 and 2012 winner, with three stages to go.
The 31-year Contador let potentially vital seconds slip as he played a game
of poker with Movistar’s Valverde and Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez, allowing
them to assure the pursuit of Froome in the final kilometres.
“When Froome attacked, I decided to leave the responsibility to Alejandro
(Valverde) because he was second in the overall standings,” explained Contador.
“I knew that the difference was going to be minimal at the finish because
the final two kilometres were easier. I lost time but I hope it won’t be a
The Spaniard could however face a challenge to his bid for a third Vuelta
title especially during Saturday’s difficult climb to the summit of Col
d’Ancares and Sunday’s time-trial at Santiago de Compostela.
The 24-year-old Aru, fifth in the overall standings, attacked late and was
given a boost when he was joined by Froome to coast to victory.
“It’s incredible,” said the Italian.
“My energy isn’t the same after 18 stages but I’d really prepared for the
Vuelta. It’s the first time that I’ve raced here, I like the route and hope to
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Dutchman Robert Gesink (Belkin) and
Belgian Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma) all pulled out of the race before the 157km
stage from A Estrada.
Gesink, who had been seventh in the overall standings before the stage in
northwestern Galicia, withdrew for family reasons.
Boonen and former Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara left to prepare
for the world road race championships in Ponferrada, Spain later this month.
Friday’s 19th stage covers 180.5km between Salvaterra do Mino and Cangas do
Morrazo and includes two second category climbs.
Results from the Tour of Spain
18th stage, a 157km ride from A Estrada to Monte Castrove on Thursday:
1. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 3hr 47min 17sec (average: 41.4 km/h), 2. Chris
Froome (GBR/SKY) at 0:01, 3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:13, 4. Joaquin
Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 0:13, 5. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 0:13, 6. Samuel
Sanchez (ESP/BMC) 0:17, 7. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 0:33, 8. Daniel Moreno
(ESP/KAT) 0:48, 9. Damiano Caruso (ITA/CAN) 0:48, 10. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA)
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 71hr 38min 37sec, 2. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY)
at 1min 19sec, 3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:32, 4. Joaquin Rodriguez
(ESP/KAT) 2:29, 5. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 3:15, 6. Daniel Martin (IRL/GRM) 6:52,
7. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/BMC) 6:59, 8. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA) 9:12, 9. Daniel
Navarro (ESP/COF) 9:44, 10. Damiano Caruso (ITA/CAN) 9:45