Cycle//Vuelta a España
by Marcus Leach
Alberto Contador won stage sixteen of the Vuelta a España after a fine battle with rival Chris Froome, but the headlines were stolen by Italian Gianluca Brambilla and Russia's Ivan Rovny who were thrown out of the race for fighting.
Brambillia and Rovny were amongst a breakaway group of thirteen riders that were looking to stay clear on another tough mountain stage but began exchanging punches just under 40km from the finish at La Farrapona.
It is unclear exactly why they were fighting but both men landed punches and were later disqualified from the race.
Brambillia went on to become part of a more select three-man group after the punch-up, heading on to the final climb of the day, but he then pulled aside in a flurry of protestation after being told by race officials that he had been thrown out of the race.
Rovny had by now dropped back to the peloton and continued to help his Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador, but he was then asked to pull aside by his team and was told that he too had been kicked out of the race.
As for Contador, he was pushed all the way by Froome, whose vicious attack on the final climb of the day dropped everybody apart from the Spaniard. Once the two were clear it was a game of cat and mouse as the two looked to take the stage, but not before catching the lone survivor of the breakaway, Alessandro De Marchi. But once passed De Marchi it was a straight showdown between the two big guns.
However, for all of his effort earlier on in the climb Froome was not able to turn it into a stage win as Contador raced clear with a kilometre to go. The Spaniard now looks certain to claim another Vuelta crown, having previously won the title in 2008 and 2012.
"Today was a very good day for us," said Contador. "I had the power I needed, I managed to keep going with the pace imposed by Froome and when I saw my opportunity I took advantage of it."
Froome's strong ride saw him close to within three seconds of second-placed Valverde in the general classification.
Stage Sixteen Result
1. Alberto Contador 4hrs 53mins 36
2. Chris Froome +14
3. Alessandro De Marchi +48
4. Alejandro Valverde +53
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) +57
6. Fabio Aru +1:06
7. Daniel Martin +1:12
8. Robert Gesink +1:22
9. Samuel Sanchez +1:43
10. Ryder Hesjedal +1:48
1. Alberto Contador 63hrs 25mins 00secs
2. Alejandro Valverde +1min 36secs
3. Chris Froome +1min 39secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez +2mins 29secs
5. Fabio Aru +3mins 38secs
6. Daniel Martin +6mins 17secs
7. Robert Gesink +6mins 43secs
8. Samuel Sanchez +6mins 55secs
9. Warren Barguil +8mins 37secs
10. Damiano Caruso +9mins 10secs