Bradley Wiggins (Sky) explained that he went “into time trial” mode near the summit of La Covatilla as he put time into red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez and many of his overall rivals on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España.
The British champion moved up to 13th overall after finishing in fourth place behind Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo), and was hugely impressive in setting the tempo at the front of leading group in the closing kilometres.
“Today had originally been about me trying to limit my losses as much as possible to guys like Van den Broeck and Rodriguez but I surprised myself,” Wiggins admitted afterwards. “I didn’t think I’d be as good as that as it was the first all-out summit finish I’d done since the Dauphiné. Obviously Sierra Nevada came earlier this week but everyone cancelled each other out a bit on there.”
After teammate Chris Froome’s pace-setting pegged back Dan Martin and reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) with 2km to go, Wiggins himself took over at the front and succeeded in dislodging Jurgen Van Den Broeck from the leading group. In the finishing straight, Martin cleverly picked his moment to slip clear and take the stage, while Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) assumed the overall lead after finishing second.
Wiggins lies a minute off the Dutchman's red jersey, and will be expected to make further strides in the general classification in Monday’s 47km time trial around Salamanca.
“I’m delighted with how things went and once I saw people were in difficulties behind I went into time trial mode and tried to take as much time off them as possible,” Wiggins said. “Tomorrow is where I am expecting to make the most of my gains and everything I earned here was a bonus – it was a fantastic finish and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
Wiggins was fulsome in his praise of Froome, who finished ahead of Vincenzo Nibali in 5th place, and lies just behind Wiggins in the overall standings. “The team were brilliant again as well and Froomey is shining; he’s really come to the fore now and has proved his worth.”