By Nigel Wynn
Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) won stage seven of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana on Friday, putting in a solo move from a four-man escape group to secure the victory.
It's De Marchi's first Grand Tour stage win, and is satisfying after several near misses including stage 17 of the Tour de France where he finished fifth.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) came home in second with Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) in third.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) retained the overall race lead ahead of team-mate Nairo Quintana, with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in third.
Chris Froome (Sky) suffered a scare during the stage when he crashed and was forced to chase hard back to the peloton and sustained damage to his right elbow and hip. It would have jangled nerves still raw after crashing out of the Tour de France, but that didn't stop him from gaining two seconds over his rivals at the finish.
Froome was one of a number of riders to take a spill, including fellow Brit Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) and Hesjedal, who slid out on a corner whilst in the escape and his bike was run over by a camera motorbike ending his chance of contesting the stage win.
A large 20-rider escape group had formed early in the stage, but was caught on the day's first categorised climb, Alto de Illora. Four riders then took off on another escape: De Marchi, Hesjedal, Dupont and Johann Tschopp (IAM Cycling).
De Marchi went solo with 13km to go, and maintained enough of an advantage over his former escape companions and a disinterested peloton to take a lone win. Hesjedal took second in a sprint with his two escape companions.
In an unexpected move, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) decided to sprint out of the bunch to claw back three seconds, and he was joined by Philippe Gilbert (BMC) with Froome just behind. Froome's move means that although he retains his fourth place overall behind Valverde, he is now just 20 seconds in arrears and crucially just two seconds behind Contador.
Saturday's eighth stage is a largely flat affair from Baeza to Albacete which will be welcomed by Froome, Hesjedal, Barguil and others as they recover from injuries.
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage seven: Alhendin to Alcaudete, 169km
1. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale in 4-01-52
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 1-35
3. Hubert Dupont (Fra) Ag2r
4. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling at same time
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at 2-17
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at same time
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 2-18
8. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-20
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
10. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at same time
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 26-52-20
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 15 secs
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 18 secs
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 20 secs
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 44 secs
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 45 secs
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 55 secs
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 58 secs
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1-09
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale at 1-12
14. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 1-34
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