Tom Dumoulin won the time trial stage and took over the Vuelta a España on Wednesday in Burgos. and now leads by a slim three seconds over Fabio Aru, which he said is "nothing" with four days to race to the finish in Madrid.
Giant-Alpecin’s captain won the 38.7-kilometre stage with 1-53 minutes on team Astana's Aru.
He also put 3-06 into the day's race leader, Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha). Ahead of three mountain days, though none finishing uphill, he leads Aru by three seconds and Rodríguez by 1-15.
"For the spectators, it will be quite spectacular," Dumoulin said.
"I'll have some difficult days ahead, they are all going to try to get me out of this jersey. We have to be ready, and we are, but first we have to celebrate this win."
Watch: The Vuelta a España essential guide
The stage win in Burgos was Dumoulin's second in what has been a breakthrough race for him. He also won the Cumbre del Sol uphill stage nine against Sky's Chris Froome.
The Dutchman has climbed better than he ever has in a Grand Tour, but the others, Astana first in line, will want to attack and drop him. Tomorrow, the stage climbs up to 1,740 metres before descending to the finish in Riaza and Saturday, one day before the finish in Madrid, it reaches 1,825 metres before going down to finish in Cercedilla.
"Other riders will want their podium spots, I would imagine that Rafa Majka [fourth at 2-22] will attack to get on the podium, and 'Purito' [Rodríguez] won't be happy with that.
“I have to have my eye on Aru, three seconds is nothing in the overall. I have to be attentive, for sure."
The 24-year-old and his Giant team did not start with plans to win the overall. Before the race, Dumoulin was mainly known as a time trial specialist.
Their main goal was to support John Degenkolb for stage wins, and help Dumoulin recover from his Tour de France crash for the Burgos time trial and the Worlds, where he placed third behind Bradley Wiggins in the time trial last year.
As a result, Giant did not bring a team to support a potential Vuelta winner. Each day, the team does its best, but after American Lawson Craddock drops off, Dumoulin is alone.
He has been able to stay with the favourites or to manage his losses well so far. He could take a boost from the previous 17 stages and the red jersey, at least enough to hang on until Madrid.
"The Vuelta is definitely is not over," he said. "Now, it's getting serious. Now I'm really a contender for the win."
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