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Vuelta a Espana stage 17: Contador wins in stunning style to take race lead

Alberto Contador (Saxobank-Tinkoff) left his rivals in his wake after launching a stunning solo attack to win stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana and move into the overall lead.

The 2008 Vuelta champion made a daring move on the penultimate climb, more than 50km from the finish of the 187.3km stage, before claiming victory atop the Fuente Dé at 1,080m.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished eight seconds adrift in second but Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez finished nearly two minutes and 30 seconds back to surrender the race lead.

Contador’s solo victory has placed him firmly in the lead on GC. Photo: Roz Jones, On The Road Cycling Tours

Contador now leads the general classification, one minute and fifty seconds ahead of Valverde, with Rodriguez a further 36 seconds off the pace in third.

Few had expected the Spaniard to make his move on today’s rolling stage, with most observers predicting a final roll of the dice for El Pistolero  on Saturday’s summit finish at Bola del Mundo.

But after making his move nearly 50km from the finish, on the slopes of the second category Collado La Hoz, it was clear today was the day. Race leader, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) tried to catch their countryman, but it quickly became apparent that their efforts would be in vain.

While Rodriguez folded, crossing the line in 10th place, some 2.38 down on Contador (and now third on GC), Valverde launched a valiant pursuit which ended in a solo effort and defeat to Contador by just six seconds.

Team Sky’s Chris Froome remains fourth,but is now 9.40 off Contador’s lead, with little hope now even of a podium. The Kenyan-born Brit has enjoyed a fine season, but this Vuelta looks like a step too far.

Better news for the British WorldTour squad came in the shape of third place for the team’s young Columbian rider, Sergio Henao, who finsihed third, just behind Valverde.

Directeur sportif, Nicolas Portal, said: “He [Henao] has had a number of top-three finishes this season and he’s getting closer to that first victory all the time. I’m sure he won’t have to wait much longer.”

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Vuelta a Espana stage 17 – result

1) Alberto Contador (SPA) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank – 4:29:20 hours
2) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +6″
3) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky – same time
4) Gorka Verdugo (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
5) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R La Mondiale +19″
6) Jan Bakelants (BEL) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek +55″
7) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar +1’13”
8) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – Argos-Shimano +1’40”
9) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana +2’13”
10) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +2’38”

General classification

1) Alberto Contador (SPA) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank – 68:07:54 hours
2) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1’52”
3) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +2’28”
4) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +9’40”
5) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +11’36”
6) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +12’06”
7) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – Rabobank +12’55”
8) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +13’06”
9) Igor Anton Hernandez (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +13’49”
10) Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (SPA) Movistar +14’10”

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