Cycle//Vuelta a España
by Marcus Leach
Przemyslaw Niemic took advantage of the peloton's inability to catch the day's breakaway as he claimed victory on stage fifteen of the Vuelta a España.
It was another tough day on the bike for the riders with a gruelling final climb reaching gradients of seventeen percent. Five riders made an early break, including Niemic, and had a lead of over ten minutes at one stage. The peloton did begin to close the gap, and it came down further when the general classification contenders upped the pace with a series of attacks on each other, but ultimately Niemic was able to stay clear for a memorable victory.
Entering the final climb, a punishing twelve kilometre effort, the race's leading contenders began attacking each other and before long the peloton was in tatters and it was, as has often been the case on the big climbs, down to a select handful.
Unlike yesterday (Saturday) where he took time on his rivals, today Britain's Chris Froome lost seven seconds as Alberto Contador strengthened his grip on the race.
"Froome is the strongest rival I have come across and you can never count him out," Contador said.
Stage winner Niemiec was part of an early breakaway group and held on for his first Grand Tour stage victory.
"It is an incredibly happy day for me," said the Lampre Merida rider, who broke clear on a gruelling 12.2km hors category climb towards the finish.
"We had thought about resting for tomorrow's stage, but once I was in the breakaway I saw we had quite an advantage and everyone was working together to get to the end."
The Spanish trio of Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez repeatedly attacked in an attempt to distance Froome on the final climb, but Contador was disappointed not to make more of a dent in the Sky man's bid for a first Vuelta victory.
"It was perhaps a bit of shame to not open up the distance more on Froome because with a rider of that quality you always have to try and have as much of a gap as possible," he said.
Valverde finished second, five seconds ahead of fourth-placed Contador, but cut the two-time Vuelta winner's lead by 11 seconds to 31 seconds, thanks to time bonuses.
Stage Fifteen Result
1. Przemyslaw Niemiec 4hrs 11mins 9secs
2. Alejandro Valverde +5secs
3. Joaquim Rodriguez - same time
4. Alberto Contador +10secs
5. Fabio Aru +17secs
6. Chris Froome - same time
7. Daniel Martin +28secs
8. Warren Barguil +44secs
9. Rigoberto Uran +1min
10. Giampaolo Caruso +1min 2secs
1. Alberto Contador 58hrs 31mins 35secs
2. Alejandro Valverde +31secs
3. Chris Froome +1min 20secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez - same time
5. Fabio Aru +2mins 22secs
6. Rigoberto Uran +2min 57secs
7. Daniel Martin +4mins 55secs
8. Samuel Sanchez +5mins 2secs
9. Robert Gesink +5mins 11secs
10. Warren Barguil +6mins 36secs