Cycle//Vuelta a España
by Marcus Leach
It was another day of high drama at the Vuelta a España as Nairo Quintana crashed out of the race before Fabio Aru won on the summit finish at Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar following a gripping battle between the race's leading contenders.
Following his crash on the time trial the Colombian hit the deck again today (Wednesday) but unlike yesterday, where he got back on his bike to finish the stage, this time he was in no fit state to do so. Having been taken to hospital it was revealed he had broken his shoulder blade and he will undergo surgery on the injury in the coming days.
The days breakaway was never allowed too much time, although Vasil Kiryienka, one of those in the break, made a solo bid for it before the first of two climbs, only to see Team Katusha and Cannondale up the tempo in the chase and reel him back in on the final climb of the day at a blistering pace. It did settle down once Team Sky's Kiryienka was caught, as the leading riders looked to bide their time, knowing the steepest parts of the climb still lay in wait.
Team Sky's Philip Deignan took up the workload at the front of the peloton, and it didn't take long for riders to start to fall off the back as the lead group was soon whittled down to around twenty. However, Deignan's pace was too much for his leader Chris Froome as he toiled at the back of the lead group, forcing their leader to dig deep just to keep a wheel.
With six kilometres to go Warren Barguil and Robert Gesink attacked, opening up a small lead, but Barguil wasn't able to make his efforts stick as he slipped back into the chasing pack when the gradient hit ten percent. Gesink was able to stay out alone and soon had a twenty second lead. Alejandro Valverde was prominent, now the clear leader of the Movistar team with Quintana out, but his every move was monitored by Alberto Contador as the Spaniard looked to control his nearest rivals.
However, when Dan Martin attacked Valverde couldn't match the pace of Contador and suddenly the peloton was falling to pieces, with the biggest casualty looking to be Froome. But the former Tour de France champion somehow managed to get back with in the action and then launch an attack of his own on the steepest section of the climb.
Froome's pace sparked a reaction from Contador and Valverde, who like Froome had mustered energy to get back to the leaders, as the pace rocketed up. Gesink was the victim of the increased pace as his lead was wiped out and with a kilometre to go the attacks began again on a fascinating finish to the stage. Contador clearing worried about Froome looked to drop the Team Sky leader anytime he came close to his wheel but as the two duelled Aru saw a chance to break clear.
Aru's attack was timed to perfection as he put the hammer down and despite a late burst from Contador, taking Valverde and Froome with him, he was able to hold on and claim a fine stage victory. Once again the Vuelta has delivered whee the Tour de France failed to do so earlier this year, and there are plenty more mountains for thew race to go over yet.
It says something about Froome, despite not being at his best, to be able to not only hit back twice when it seemed he was dropped but then to get out of the saddle and launch a serious attack of his own. Whilst Contador still looks the strongest rider of the leading bunch he now knows he will have to be at his best to secure another Vuelta title.
Quintana wasn't the only man to leave the race today, though, because Thibaut Pinot, Steve Morabito and Maxime Bouet all abandoned on what turned out to be a treacherous stage.
Stage Eleven Result
1. Fabio Aru 3hrs 41mins 3secs
2. Alejandro Valverde +6
3. Joaquim Rodriguez - same time
4. Alberto Contador
5. Chris Froome +7
6. Rigoberto Uran +13
7. Samuel Sanchez +15
8. Dan Martin - same time
9. Daniel Navarro +16
10. Robert Gesink +21
1 Alberto Contador 40hrs 26mins 56secs
2 Alejandro Valverde +20
3 Rigoberto Uran +1:08
4 Chris Froome +1:21
5 Joaquim Rodriguez +1:35
6 Samuel Sanchez +1:52
7 Fabio Aru +2:13
8 Winner Anacona +2:22
9 Robert Gesink +2:55
10 Damiano Caruso +3:51