Cercedilla - Italian Fabio Aru is on the verge of sealing his first Grand
Tour win after he moved into the lead of Spain's Vuelta on Saturday with just
Sunday's parade around Madrid to come.
Spain's Ruben Plaza won the 175.8km stage from San Lorenzo de El Escorial to
Cercedilla thanks to a remarkable solo breakaway ride from 114km out, ahead of Portugal's
Jose Goncalves and Italian Alessandro de Marchi respectively.
Aru started the day six seconds behind Tom Dumoulin, but the Dutch rider
finally cracked on the four category one climbs on the penultimate stage as his
hopes of even a place on the podium were ended as he slipped down to sixth.
Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez and Poland's Rafal Majka look set to complete the
podium in second and third respectively.
Aru finished second at the Giro d'Italia earlier this year and had been
given the freedom to lead his Astana team once Vincenzo Nibali had been
disqualified for being towed by a team car on stage two.
"This victory is for my team, it's not just about me. All the Vuelta
they have been working very hard," he told Eurosport.
"(Dario) Cataldo, (Mikel) Landa, Luis Leon Sanchez have given
everything. We started this Vuelta with our difficulties, but we worked to be
united. We motivated each other all the time, and that gave us strength.
"The public enjoyed a great battle. Even though I was tired, I gave my
best. Sometimes you win, sometimes the results don't come your way, but you
just have to keep fighting and that is what I have done.
"This is a great sport and this is a great result for us."
Aru was well-flanked by his Astana team-mates as Dumoulin's inability to
stay with the stronger climbers was finally exposed on the penultimate climb of
the stage up the Puerto de la Morcuera as he finished nearly four minutes down
"At the moment, it's just disappointment. Tomorrow I will be proud, but
now it's just disappointment," said Dumoulin.
"I was just empty. I had no legs. I had an idea but you have just got
to deal with it. The whole race has been nice for me."
Nairo Quintana also pushed on the final two climbs as the fight for spots on
the podium heated up, but the Colombian will have to settle for fourth as he
failed to make up sufficient time on Majka or Rodriguez.
Quintana's Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde endured a tough day as he
finished alongside Dumoulin to lie seventh in the overall standings.