After taking the Vuelta a Espana's red jersey in unexpected circumstances earlier this week, Darwin Atapuma has had to cede it to his countryman Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The BMC Racing rider, who took hold of the race lead following his second place on stage four, struggled on the brutal summit finish of La Camperona on Saturday.
As Katusha's Sergey Lagutin was claiming the biggest victory of his career, Atapuma was toiling up the incredibly steep ascent. The 28-year-old lost two minutes to Quintana, dropping him from first to sixth overall at 1:36 down. Atapuma had hoped for more on the day but remained positive when looking at the parcours that lies ahead for the peloton.
"I thought that I would be better today on the last climb. I didn't know if I could keep the jersey but I wanted to do everything possible to keep it. I did my best on the last climb even though I was really suffering," said Atapuma. "The team did a great job of working for me and protecting the jersey in the last four days. It was a difficult day for me today, but there are still a lot of stages here at the Vuelta a Espana. From tomorrow the climbs are less explosive and less steep than today, so they're much more suitable to my riding characteristics.
"To wear the red jersey was a dream and something that I'll always remember. But the Vuelta a Espana is far from over, and I think we as a team can get more good results in the next two weeks."
As well as Atapuma, BMC's nominated leader Samuel Sanchez also dropped down a few places in the overall standings. Despite both their general classification riders losing time to their rivals on the stage, BMC held on to their position within the top 10.
"It was a nice surprise to have the red jersey for BMC Racing Team, and for Darwin Atapuma. We helped him to stay in this position for as long as possible," said team directeur sportif Valerio Piva. "Today we knew that it would be difficult, but we took the responsibility of the red jersey and did a lot of the work at the front of the peloton. We made sure Darwin and Samuel Sanchez were well-positioned as the base of the final climb, and finally they are both still in the top 10."
On Sunday's stage, the race will move into Sanchez's home territory of Asturias. The hilly 164km stage will pass over five classified climbs and go through Sanchez's birthplace of Oviedo inside the final 10 kilometres.
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