Valverde wins stage 6 of the Vuelta a Espana

Alejandro Valverde moved back into pole position at the Vuelta a Espana when he won the first summit finish of the race at La Zubia. Valverde had enough finishing punch to edge out Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) at the end of a thrilling stage contested fiercely by all of the race's biggest names. The victory put him back into the leader's red jersey which he had ceded to Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) in Arcos de la Frontera three days ago.

For much of the day, it seemed that the two-man break featuring Lotto-Belisol's Pim Ligthart and Caja Rural's mountains leader Luis Mas Bonet might go all the way, but the pair were reeled on the brutal final ascent 3km away from glory. Apparently playing the role of back-up man, Valverde took on the pace-making for teammate Nairo Quintana with 2km left, the pair briefly discussing their tactics as their main GC rivals sat in behind them.

Katusha's Joaquim Rodríguez had been talked up as the favourite for the stage, so it was little surprise when he attacked with 700 metres left. For a few moments, it appeared that the little Spanish climber would stay clear of the select group behind, but Froome and Valverde both responded to the attack. More surprising was the performance of Contador, who has played down his GC hopes, but was right on their wheels.

When Valverde surged inside the final 200 metres, Froome and Contador responded well but were unable to match the Movistar rider's powerful acceleration. Both, though, finished in the same time as Valverde, who now leads Quintana by 15 seconds, Contador by 18 and Froome by 22.

"It was a good and hard-earned victory," Valverde told RTVE. "It was a difficult finish, but I felt like I had good legs, I felt really good. I know this area really well. I just set a good rhythm from the bottom and Nairo told me that I should just keep going, but I kept a little bit back. When Purito attacked I went after him, and then went for the line."

Valverde revealed he doesn't know whether he'll be able to maintain his form through to the end of the race and challenge for the title, but expects Quintana to feature strongly on the mountain stages ahead. As for Contador, he said, "I'm not surprised by his performance. I knew that he was in good shape. He's perhaps not 100%, but he is here to win the Vuelta."

Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo DS Steven de Jongh said that today's goal "was to put Alberto in a good position entering the foot of the climb and the boys did a very good job guiding him in the finale. From there, we didn't really know what to expect after his crash during the Tour and the break from racing so I guess he took us all by surprise today and naturally I'm more than happy with this result. However, we still have to go easy, take the race stage by stage and see how things are going."

How it unfolded

The action was frenetic right from the start. Lotto-Belisol's Pim Ligthart and Caja Rural's mountains leader Luis Mas Bonet accelerated away in the first kilometre. For the next few kilometres, several groups attempted to bridge across to them, but all were chased down by the peloton, leaving just the two riders to make the long bid for glory.

Their advantage edged up initially, reaching four minutes after 22km. Then, as the peloton eased off, it ballooned to more than 14 minutes after 45km. As Ligthart and Mas Bonet started up the first categorised climb, the Alto de Zafarraya, Garmin moved to the front of the bunch and their pace-making began to reduce the gap to the leading pair.

When Mas Bonet took maximum points and extended his lead in the mountains classification on the summit of the Zafarraya, the two escapees were less than 10 minutes ahead. Mas Bonet also took maximum points on the Alto de los Bermejales, where he and Ligthart still led by almost nine minutes with 55km remaining.

Garmin had been doing most of the chasing, but going into the final 40km of the stage, with Ligthart and Mas Bonet still seven-and-a-half minutes clear, the rest of the peloton woke up. Katusha and Movistar put riders on the front to aid the pursuit, which quickly became very heated.

The two-man break still held a handy lead of five minutes with 24km to the line, but their advantage began to tumble until it was less than 30 seconds going onto the final 4km climb. Ligthart attempted one final effort but, with 3km to go, Cofidis's Christophe Le Mével swept past him with the peloton right on his heels.

Katusha, Movistar, Garmin, Tinkoff and Sky were all to the fore, their mutual surveillance giving Cannondale's George Bennett the opportunity to steal away for what was a very brief foray. Then Valverde took control and, despite Rodríguez's attempt to wrest it from him, maintained it all the way to the line.

Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team4:35:27
2Christopher Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 1 - Cell 2
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 2 - Cell 2
4Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha0:00:08
5Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team0:00:12
6Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:00:18
7Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge0:00:25
8Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 7 - Cell 2
9Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky0:00:32
10Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:00:33
11Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 10 - Cell 2
12Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) MTN - Qhubeka0:00:40
13Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:00:44
14Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team0:00:47
16Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale0:00:56
17Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida0:00:59
18Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin SharpRow 17 - Cell 2
19Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:01:04
20Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge0:01:07
21Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:15
23Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ.fr0:01:19
24Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team0:01:23
25Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha0:01:25
26Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:01:31
27André Cardoso (Por) Garmin Sharp0:01:39
28Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:01:43
29George Bennett (NZl) CannondaleRow 28 - Cell 2
30Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:01:48
31Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA0:01:53
33Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida0:01:54
34Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:57
35Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Tinkoff-Saxo0:02:12
36Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing0:02:16
37Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 36 - Cell 2
38Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha0:02:20
40Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:23
41Wout Poels (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:02:30
42Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:03:10
43Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:13
44Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp0:03:44
45José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:55
46Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:04:17
47Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team KatushaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo0:04:29
49Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:04:47
50Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 49 - Cell 2
51Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp0:04:52
52Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:05:04
53Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 52 - Cell 2
54Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:05:12
56Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team0:05:30
57Romain Hardy (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:05:49
58Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo0:06:02
59Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 58 - Cell 2
60Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:06:41
62Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.frRow 61 - Cell 2
63Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha0:06:53
64Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 63 - Cell 2
65Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar0:06:57
66Martijn Keizer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:07:06
67Chad Haga (USA) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 66 - Cell 2
68Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling TeamRow 67 - Cell 2
69Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGARow 68 - Cell 2
70Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre-MeridaRow 69 - Cell 2
71Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team SkyRow 70 - Cell 2
72Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 71 - Cell 2
73Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:07:38
74Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto BelisolRow 73 - Cell 2
75Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:07:55
76Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ.frRow 75 - Cell 2
77Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol0:07:59
78Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 77 - Cell 2
79Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team0:08:10
80Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 79 - Cell 2
81Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA0:08:47
82Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory RacingRow 81 - Cell 2
83Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 82 - Cell 2
84Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGARow 83 - Cell 2
85Lawrence Warbasse (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
86Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano0:08:50
87Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky0:08:53
88Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Garmin Sharp0:09:09
89Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing0:09:15
90Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:46
91Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:10:02
92Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica GreenedgeRow 91 - Cell 2
93Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 92 - Cell 2
94Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 93 - Cell 2
95Karol Domagalski (Pol) Caja Rural - Seguros RGARow 94 - Cell 2
96Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGARow 95 - Cell 2
97Maxime Mederel (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 96 - Cell 2
98Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano0:10:37
99Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo0:10:39
101Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team SkyRow 100 - Cell 2
102Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling0:10:56
103Bryan Nauleau (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 102 - Cell 2
104Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory RacingRow 103 - Cell 2
105Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory RacingRow 104 - Cell 2
106Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling TeamRow 105 - Cell 2
107Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica GreenedgeRow 107 - Cell 2
109Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto BelisolRow 108 - Cell 2
110Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenedgeRow 109 - Cell 2
111Sébastien Hinault (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 110 - Cell 2
112Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 111 - Cell 2
113Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ.frRow 112 - Cell 2
114Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 113 - Cell 2
115Jerome Cousin (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 114 - Cell 2
116Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 115 - Cell 2
117Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing0:11:23
118Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:11:25
119Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 118 - Cell 2
120Peter Sagan (Svk) CannondaleRow 119 - Cell 2
121Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar Team0:11:28
122Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenedgeRow 121 - Cell 2
123Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 122 - Cell 2
124Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 123 - Cell 2
125Martin Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 124 - Cell 2
126Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 125 - Cell 2
127Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) CannondaleRow 126 - Cell 2
128Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka0:11:33
129Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling0:11:37
130Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ.frRow 129 - Cell 2
131Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:11:42
132Philip Deignan (Irl) Team Sky0:11:47
133Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale0:11:52
134Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:11:59
135Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling TeamRow 134 - Cell 2
136Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 135 - Cell 2
137Matthias Krizek (Aut) CannondaleRow 136 - Cell 2
138Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 137 - Cell 2
139Maciej Bodnar (Pol) CannondaleRow 138 - Cell 2
140John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano0:12:27
141Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling TeamRow 140 - Cell 2
142Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 141 - Cell 2
143Lawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 142 - Cell 2
144Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Team KatushaRow 143 - Cell 2
145Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha0:12:32
146Vegard Breen (Nor) Lotto BelisolRow 145 - Cell 2
147Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory RacingRow 146 - Cell 2
148Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale0:12:44
149Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:12:59
150Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge0:13:08
151Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp0:13:11
152Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team0:13:25
153Oscar Gatto (Ita) CannondaleRow 152 - Cell 2
154Elia Favilli (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:13:30
155Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky0:13:34
156Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky0:13:45
157Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto BelisolRow 156 - Cell 2
158Laurent Mangel (Fra) FDJ.fr0:13:53
159Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka0:14:18
160Jaco Venter (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 159 - Cell 2
161Peio Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGARow 160 - Cell 2
162Natnael Berhane (Eri) Team EuropcarRow 161 - Cell 2
163Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team SkyRow 162 - Cell 2
164Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 163 - Cell 2
165Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica Greenedge0:14:26
166Yannick Martinez (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 165 - Cell 2
167Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Team KatushaRow 166 - Cell 2
168Brett Lan