Froome falls out of contention
After seemingly riding himself back into some kind of form on stage nine’s summit finish on Sunday, expectation had returned that Chris Froome might be ready to ride to the top of this Vuelta a España as he searched for a second Grand Tour win of the season.
But things didn’t start well for the Sky rider, crashing into a wooden road barrier in the opening kilometres as the peloton began to scale the first of six categorised climbs.
It looked like Froome hadn’t come off to badly, but he was visibly limping at the stage finish as he made his way to a team car and his teammate Geraint Thomas confirmed that he was suffering from pain in his right foot.
Things really started to go wrong for the Brit on the Coll de la Gallina, where he dropped back to the medical car for attention. From there, with Astana driving hard on the front of the main bunch, Froome just never recovered.
In the end he finished 8-41 behind stage winner Mikel Landa, and now sits 7-30 down in GC in 15th place, a deficit that he is unlikely to be able to make up, particularly if he’s suffering with an injury.
There were more major changes higher up in GC though, with this man taking control of the red jersey…
Aru rides into red
After the disappointment of his Giro d’Italia campaign and with Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali being disqualified from the race on the first weekend, Fabio Aru looks more determined than ever to claim his first Grand Tour victory.
An attack on stage seven’s summit finish signalled his intentions, but on the final climb of Wednesday’s stage to Alto Els Cortals, the Italian really laid his marker.
Aru first distanced the likes of race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at the foot of the climb with and attack, but a second move with 6km to go saw second place Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) lose contact as well.
Even if Purito had designed the stage profile, there was nothing he could do about Aru’s move but managed to cut his losses as finished two minutes behind the Astana leader.
Aru takes control of the red jersey by 27 seconds over Rodriguez with a lot more action to come over the next 10 stages.
Leader at the start of the day Dumoulin still holds on to third place 30 seconds behind and will be hoping to stay in that position until the Burgos time trial on stage 17, where his skills against the clock could see him make substantial gains on the two riders ahead of him who struggle with that aspect of racing.
Watch: 2015 Vuelta a España essential guide
What a day to be in the break
Faced with one of the toughest mountain challenges in the modern era of Grand Tour racing, it takes a brave rider to put themselves into the escape group. Nineteen did, though, and they certainly made their mark on a gruesome day in the high mountains.
With six, brutal categorised climbs to navigate, the escapees kept ahead of the chasing pack for the majority of the race – and in the case of stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana), all of it. The Spaniard had been part of the day’s break and finished ahead of team-mate and new race leader Fabio Aru.
Almost more noteworthy than Landa’s performance was that of Sky’s Ian Boswell. The 24 year old American had been another to endure all day in the break, and finished in third spot just 17 seconds behind Aru.
A harder course isn’t always better
Although the stage was decisive in shaking up the general classification to an extent, it hardly provided fireworks. The exaggerated saw-tooth profile of the stage with its six categorised climbs made the overall contenders put in a cautious performance for much of the day, with only Fabio Aru’s late move on the final climb really causing any upset.
The prior war of attrition had claimed its victims, with Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all losing various amounts of time, but it was hardly the battle royale that the organisers were perhaps hoping for when they devised the stage.
Spanish hope Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had a hand in drawing up the course, but even he put in a disappointing performance by hanging onto team-mate Daniel Moreno’s wheel the whole way up the final ascent.
Sometimes more really isn’t more.
Another motorbike collision
We share the Tinkoff-Saxo team’s despair at another of its riders being taken out of the race by an official motorbike. After the fiasco that saw Peter Sagan knocked off his bike and retire with his injuries, today’s stage saw Sergio Paulinho unbelievably suffer the same fate.
Making the matter worse, only hours before a second of its riders had been taken out by the moto, Tinkoff-Saxo had issued an open letter to Vuelta organiser Unipublic and the UCI outlining its concerns after the original Sagan incident.
The Russian team requested an apology – which it has still not received – and asked that the race organiser make a donation to charity as compensation. They also asked that measures would be put into place to prevent any such incident happening again.
A review into the conduct of motorbike riders during the race and the formation of strict guidelines must surely now be implemented as swiftly as possible.