Colombian Nairo Quintana wins first high mountain stage and takes overall lead in the 2016 Vuelta a España

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took control of the 2016 Vuelta a España on Monday, winning the high mountain stage 10 to Lagos de Covadonga and moving back into the overall race lead.

The Colombian finished 24 seconds ahead of Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), the last survivor of the break of the day, and 25 seconds ahead of Chris Froome (Sky), who recovered dramatically having been dropped further down the climb.

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Froome was spat out the back of the peloton with over 9km still to climb, with teammates Leopold Konig and Peter Kennaugh pacing him. As he spoke on his radio, it looked as though this time the Briton was in trouble, and could be about to fall altogether out of contention in the race for GC.

But once again it became apparent that Froome was simply managing his efforts, as he struck out alone from his teammates with around 6km to go and began to catch and drop all the riders one-by-one who had earlier left him behind.

Soon he caught the Orica-BikeExchange pair of Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates, then Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), then Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), and finally Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) to finish third on the stage and limit his losses to Quintana to just 25 seconds.

In the red jersey, David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) was dropped early on, and finished 31st, 3-15 down to relinquish the overall lead and slide to seventh overall.

Movistar signalled their intent by riding at the front early in the day, and keeping the gap to the break ahead of the final climb of La Covadonga to a manageable four or five minutes.

On the final climb, Dani Moreno (Movistar) whittled the peloton down to around just half a dozen riders, setting up Quintana to accelerate on a particularly steep ramp with around 6.5km to go.

Only Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was able to match his pace, and the duo worked together up the mountain, passing the remnants of the day’s break as they looked to put time into their mutual rivals.

On another particularly steep gradient situated 3.5km from the finish, Quintana accelerated again to drop Contador. Within a kilometre the Colombian had caught and passed Gesink, and soloed his way for a first ever win at the Vuelta completing the full set of Grand Tour stage victories.

Contador, on the other hand, went backwards, being passed by five other riders by the summit and losing over a minute to Quintana.

Movistar’s pace ensured the break had little chance of making it to the finish, although Gesink did come closer to surviving than expected.

Not all their efforts were in vain, however. In Omar Fraile’s (Dimension Data) case, the maximum points in the King of the Mountains points on the penultimate climb of Alto del Mirador del Fito – as well as the four points he gained by brilliantly holding on up the Covadonga to hold onto fourth on the stage – was enough for him to become the new leader in that classification.

Results

Vuelta a España 2016, stage 10: Lugones to Lagos de Covadonga, 188.7km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 4-50-31
2. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 24 secs
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 25 secs
4. Omar Fraile (Esp) Dimension Data at 28 secs
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at same time
7. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 1-02
8. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 1-05
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 1-09
10. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 1-11

General classification after stage 10
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 38-37-07
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 57 secs
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 58 secs
4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 2-09
5. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 2-54
6. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky at 2-57
7. David de la Cruz (Esp) Etixx-QuickStep at 3-03
8. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 3-06
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 3-14
10. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing at 3-20