Stage 15 of the Vuelta a España was a testing day for Omega Pharma-Quick Step's GC hopeful Rigoberto Urán. The Colombian slipped once place on the overall standings from fifth to sixth and is 2:57 minutes down on race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Urán was climbing with a select GC group as the race hit the slopes of the HC Lagos de Covadonga climb but when Contador attacked in the final 4km, Urán was unable to match the ferocious pace and instead settled into his own rhythm alongside Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano).
The 27-year-old then saw Froome and Barguil surge ahead but managed to find one last reserve of energy to cross the line in ninth place, one minute down on stage winner Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida).
"I did the best I could on another difficult finale at La Vuelta," Urán said. "I gave everything to be there with the top GC guys in the final few kilometres. Tomorrow will be another challenging day in the mountains and I need to immediately focus on it rather than dwell on today."
Urán has ridden the Vuelta on two previous occasions with 27th overall last year his best result so far. The Colombian has finished second at the last two editions of the Giro d'Italia but is yet to replicate his May form in September.
"I will be motivated to do as well as I can, with the help of my teammates, on the last stage before the rest day," Urán added. "Then we will see where I am in the GC, what we can do to improve, and what our strategy will be for the final part of the race."
Urán will now have to do without the services of three-time time trial world champion Tony Martin who was one of five abandons on the stage as the German turns his attention to capturing another rainbow jersey against the clock.
"It's always a shame to abandon a race when it's not yet over," Martin said after leaving the race. "But, the first two weeks of racing here have been difficult and I also went absolutely full gas in the time trial for my victory.
"It took a while to recover 100 percent. It's no secret that I am aiming for the UCI World Time Trial Championships in a couple weeks. To me, winning these are even more important than ever before."
Since its reintroduction to the World Championships schedule, Omega Pharma-Quick Step have yet to be beaten in the team time trial event and Martin is looking to help the team claim another title.
"I can help the team as we try to win a third straight TTT gold medal,' he said. "I can also set a record if I win a fourth straight individual time trial championship. It will be particularly important to arrive fresh because there are less than three days between each time trial championship. So, I am optimizing recovery in function of my goals."
The German also wished his team good fortune for the remaining week of the Spanish grand tour.
"I wish good luck to all of my teammates at La Vuelta, especially Rigo, as they defend his position in the GC and will do their best for another stage victory in the final days of racing," he said. "They have done well so far and I have no doubt this will continue."