Stage 9 at the 2018 Vuelta a España - with its summit finish up the 10km hors category La Covatilla climb that Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) likened to Mont Ventoux - promised drama and a first real test for the general classification contenders.
The stage delivered on both counts, as American Ben King (Dimension Data) soloed to his second win of the race and Mitchelton-Scott Briton Simon Yates deposed Frenchman Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) from the top of the overall standings.
King, who took his first-ever Grand Tour stage win last week in Alfacar during stage 4, infiltrated an 11-rider breakaway that also included mountains leader Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal), among others. The peloton let the gap spread out to nearly 10 minutes as the GC contenders contemplated La Covatilla at the end of the day.
King followed an attack by Luis Mas (Caja Rural) with 20km to go, then dropped the Spaniard on the cobbled, technical approach to La Covatilla, where he started ascending with 1:30 on the remnants of the break. Mollema jumped away from the chasing group on the early slopes and nearly pulled King back, closing to within 15 seconds, but when the climb levelled off near the top, King was able to open his lead once again and solo across the line with 48 seconds to spare.
The GC group, which finished more than two-and-a-half minutes later, appeared to be at a stalemate until a series of late attacks and counters allowed Yates to dispatch enough seconds from his rivals to claim the red jersey, which he now holds by one second over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
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