Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) has won the eleventh stage of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.
The Swede set a time of 52.36 over the 39.4km course from Cambados to Pontevedra, which included a category three climb.
He finished some 17 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who was second, and 39 seconds ahead of third-placed Chris Froome (Team Sky).
The finishing positions of Contador and Froome are now mirrored by their positions on the general classification. Froome had started the day ahead of Contador.
Both remain behind race leader, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who holds the red jersey by one second after producing one of the best time trials of his career.
The Spaniard, a self-confessed non-time trialist, delivered a similarly impressive performance on the final stage of the Giro d’Italia earlier this season. His effort then was not enough to retain the lead of the race and claim overall victory.
Rodriguez said described his performance as ‘special’ but placed it behind his effort in Milan.
“I’m really happy to keep the red jersey, but I wouldn’t say I’m the favorite now: Contador, Froome and Valverde did a great performance too, the gaps are narrow, so everything can still happen,” he said.
Contador overcame a seven second deficit to Froome at the beginning of the stage to end the day 16 seconds ahead of the Kenyan-born Brit.
Perhaps ominously for his rivals, the Spaniard, riding his first Grand Tour since retuning from suspension earlier this month, said the race was about to begin a phase better suited to his style.
“Once we enter my terrain, I hope to feel as strong as now. So far the race has been dominated by one-day classics but now we are on the threshold to the high mountain stages. It’s still a very close race at the top of the GC but I have full confidence in my team and myself,” he said.
After a flat stage tomorrow and an undulating parcouse the day after that, the riders will face three consecutive days in the high mountains.
Froome, a noted climber who finished second in last year’s Vuelta and guided Bradley Wiggins through the Tour’s highest mountains last month, will perhaps be disappointed to have lost time today to Contador, but not without hope.
And Rodriguez, winner of this year’s La Fleche Wallonne, will relish the uphill finish that concludes tomorrow’s 190.5km stage from Vilagarcía de Arousa to Mirador de Ézaro.
Vuelta a Espana stage 11 – result
1) Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE) – Astana – 52.36
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +17”
3) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +39”
4) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1.08
5) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar +1.09
6) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +1.15
7) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha + 1.16
8) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge +1.17
9) Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp +1.24
10) Jonathan Castroviejo (SPA) – Movistar +1.34
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 40.26.15
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +1”
3) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +16”
4) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +59”
5) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +2.27
6) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +2.54
7) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – AG2R-La Mondiale +3.39
8) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +4.08
9) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – Rabobank +4.22
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank +5.10