Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) surged back into the red jersey on stage nine of the Vuelta a Espana, beating Chris Froome (Team Sky) – whose own GC bid is back on track – on the summit finish of the Cumbre del Sol.
Froome went past Dumoulin in the final kilometre after a well-timed late attack which distanced his GC rivals in the red jersey group, but the Dutchman came back strong to bag victory and the race lead.
On a largely flat stage from Torrevieja, the sting in the tail – which we earmarked as a potentially pivotal stage – proved just that as the GC was shaken up and the red jersey changed hands again.
Earlier, Froome’s team-mate Geraint Thomas had been one of the final members of the 14-man breakaway to be swept up as Team Sky’s Brits enjoyed a successful day.
Thomas’ group included King of the Mountains leader Omar Fraile (Caja Rural), who led the way over the first ascent of the Alto Cumbre del Sol to keep the polka dot jersey.
But Thomas, Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep) struck out alone as they approached the second, steeper ascent of the climb – their advantage over the Katusha-led peloton reaching one minute with seven kilometres to go.
When they were swept up, however, the attacks came thick and fast from the bunch – Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) being the first to make a move.
Nairo Quintana followed, as the Movistar duo continued their two-pronged attacking moves and Froome was again dropped as a result.
But as Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) started his own solo attack, Froome’s pacing proved to be spot on as he exploded clear of his GC rivals – Quintana, Valverde and Astana’s Fabio Aru all left trailing in his wake.
Race leader Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) was even further back as Dumoulin, wearing the white combination jersey, hovered in front of the peloton.
Froome closed in fast, with Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez for company, and it was the Spaniard who accelerated for the line first – doing so far too early.
Tour de France champion Froome was next to go, but he too came up short as Dumoulin came back to win by two seconds from the Kenyan-born Brit.
Rodriguez was third at five seconds, with Quintana and Valverde crossing together with a 20-second, and 28-second, deficit to Dumulin – enough, once bonus seconds were accounted for, to see their lead over Froome cut to a solitary second.
Dumoulin now leads, meanwhile, with only Rodriguez (at 57 seconds) and Chaves (59”) within a minute overall.
Vuelta a Espana 2015: stage nine – result
1) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin – 4.09.55hrs
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +2”
3) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +5”
4) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +16”
5) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +18”
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +20”
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +28”
8) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Team Sky +31”
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +33”
10) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – MTN-Qhubeka +34”
1) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin – 35.22.13hrs
2) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +57”
3) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE +59”
4) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Team Sky +1.07
5) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +1.13
6) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +1.17
7) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar – ST
8) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1.18
9) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.47
10) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.52