Leopold König (NetApp-Endura) has won the eighth stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.
The Czech rider shook off an elite trio, including stage two winner, Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), but the Irishman’s effort was enough to move him into the overall lead of the race.
König attacked at the flamme rouge, and passed then leader, Igor Anton (Euksaltel-Euskadi), en route to the first Grand Tour victory of his career.
He said: “I told the team this morning that I wanted to win this stage and asked for the support of the whole team.
“The guys were amazing. They had to stand up against the whole peloton and we did it. I am proud that we realized the victory together. That was so important for us.
“Now everyone realises that we are able to play our cards.”
König’s Pro Continental squad, formed at the end of last season with riders from the Scottish Endura Racing UCI Continental team, has proven more than a match for its WorldTour opposition at this Vuelta.
They posted the seventh fastest time in the opening stage team time trial after establishing a benchmark that survived most of the stage. The following day, König was the first to attack on the summit finish.
Daniel Moreno (Katusha), winner of stage four, launched a late challenge, but finished one second behind König. Roche, riding in the king of the mountains jersey, was third.
König is fast developing a reputation as a specialist on summit finishes, a skill witnessed by UK fans on the twin-ascent of Caerphilly Mountain in last year’s Tour of Britain and won stage seven of the Tour of California in May.
Roche’s continued good form allowed him to contest the stage victory, where the man he has displaced in the leader’s red jersey, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), was either unwilling or unable to do so.
Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard), at 41, the oldest man in the race, and the winner of stage three, was another absent from today’s denouement, but remains second overall, albeit by an increased margin.
Roche now leads the king of the mountains and points competitions as well as the race. His directeur sportif, Fabrizio Guidi, described the team’s first week as “sensational”. Roche’s team-mate, Michael Morkov, won stage five.
Tomorrow’s 163.7km stage is another to end on an upward trajectory. Roche, along with Konig, Moreno, and two pre-race favourites, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) doubtless have the stage ringed in red on their calendars.
Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage eight – result
1) Leopold König (CZE) – NetApp-Endura – 4.09.46
2) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +1″
3) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – SaxoTinkoff +5″
4) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ – ST
5) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Cannondale
6) Bart De Clerq (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +8″
7) Igor Anton (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +13″
8)Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +19″
9) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha – ST
10) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +23″
1) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Saxo-Tinkoff – 31.39.30
2) Chris Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard +17″
3) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha – ST
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +18″
5) Leopold Konig (CZE) – NetApp-Endura +29″
6) Haimar Zulbeldia (ESP) – Radioshack-Leopard +30″
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +31″
8) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky +42″
9) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +52″
10) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +1.03