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Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 20

Live coverage of stage 20 of the Vuelta a España, 193 kilometres from Benidorm to Alto de Aitana.

Vuelta a España race hub on Cyclingnews
Stage 19 report: Froome wins Calpe time trial 
Froome blasts back into contention
Quintana stays calm despite losing time
 

For a few days during the final week, it seemed as though the Vuelta was simply slouching towards Madrid, the red jersey secure on Nairo Quintana's shoulders, but Chris Froome's startling performance in yesterday's time trial means that there is yet some considerable suspense to proceedings as the race tackles its final obstacle, the Alto de Aitana, this afternoon.

General classification after stage 19:

1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 75:18:52
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:21
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:03:43
4 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:04:54
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:12
6 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:07:32
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:10:01
8 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar Team 0:10:07
9 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:10:11
10 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:11:14
 

 

Logic says that Quintana should have enough in hand to repel Froome this afternoon on the Aitana, but then again, the Sky man's remarkable freshness in yesterday's time trial would seem to defy that same logic. In the third week of the second Grand Tour of his season, Froome not only put more than a minute into everybody bar Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), but he gained the bones of two minutes on three GC men who had apparently prepared more specifically for the demands of this Vuelta than he had. 

 

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was forced out of the Tour de France early by crashes and illness, and skipped the Olympics to focus on the Vuelta. He won the Vuelta a Burgos as he built towards this race, but he conceded 1:57 yesterday. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) skipped the Tour altogether to focus on the Vuelta, and he had banked on this final time trial to lift him into the top five overall. He managed that, but still lost 1:54 to the seemingly untouchable Froome. Quintana, meanwhile, was subdued at the Tour, but skipped the Olympics to recalibrate ahead of the Vuelta. He conceded 2:16 of his overall lead in the space of 37 kilometres yesterday.

 

Froome, by contrast, travelled to the Rio 2016 Olympics - where he took bronze in the time trial - between winning the Tour de France and coming here, but he showed few signs of fatigue on the road to Calpe yesterday afternoon and he now finds himself still with a fighter's chance of denying Quintana Vuelta victory at the last. 

 

There are four category two climbs on the agenda this afternoon ahead of the final, special category haul to the finish on the Alto de Aitana. The Coll de Rates (13km at 3%), beloved of every team that comes to Calpe on a training camp, is first up, followed by the Alto de Vall de Ebo (8km at 5.4%). Alto de Tollos (4.1km at 5.9%) comes after 82.6km, followed by the Puerto de Tudons (7.1km at 5.3%).

 

The last climb of this Vuelta, meanwhile, is the long Alto de Aitana, which stretches for an interminable 21 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.9%. The Ventoux of the Costa Blanca has featured three times at the Vuelta in the past. It made its debut in 2001, when Claus Michael Møller was stage winner. Leonardo Piepoli claimed the honours three years later, while Damiano Cunego won atop the Aitana on the Vuelta’s last visit in 2009.

 

The Vuelta peloton is negotiating the long neutralised zone in Benidorm, with the official start due to be given at 12.18 local time.

There is one non-starter to report this morning. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) suffered an acromioclavicular joint dislocation of his right shoulder when he crashed during yesterday's time trial, and although he was able to finish the stage, he was forced to withdraw from the race a day shy of Madrid. The 2008 Olympic champion was lying in 11th place overall.

 

193km remaining from 193km

The flag drops and stage 20 of the Vuelta is underway. It's hard to imagine Froome looking to test Quintana directly until they reach the Aitana itself, but it will be fascinating to see how Movistar will respond if Sky look to put a man in the early break.

 

Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo) and Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff) are the day's first attackers, opening a lead of 15 seconds over the peloton.

 

190km remaining from 193km

Paulinho and Didier are joined by Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange) but it doesn't appear that this trio will be given much leeway. Contador may be 3:43 off the pace in third overall, but even at that remove, Movistar aren't minded to let one of his teammates up the road.

 

188km remaining from 193km

Paulinho, Dider and Cort Nielsen are duly reeled in by the peloton. 

 

Ben King (Cannondale-Drapac) is the next man to try his luck, forging clear after ten kilometres, but his lead is a small one for the time being.

 

180km remaining from 193km

It's been a brisk start to proceedings. King was briefly joined off the front by Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo), but they were quickly brought to heel. Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) is the next man up and he attacks off the front.

 

177km remaining from 193km

After Bilbao is pegged back, Silvan Dillier (BMC) and Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) forge up the road together. The pair have 23 seconds in hand as the race speeds towards the day's first categorised climb, the Coll de Rates (13 km at 3%).

 

This stage has yet to settle down. Dillier and Wallays have a lead of 20 seconds on the lower slopes of the Rates, but Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) is in the process of dragging a group of 20 or so riders across to them, and the peloton is only just behind that.

 

172km remaining from 193km

Dillier and Wallays are reeled in by the chasers on the Rates, and now Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) and Laurent Didier (Trek - Segafredo) are at the head of the race. A 27-man group including Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) is 20 seconds behind them, while the peloton is at 33 seconds.

 

170km remaining from 193km

The situation in front changes once again, as Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) takes off alone in search of king of the mountains points. The Frenchman has 20 seconds in hand on the chase group, which now contains 28 riders. The peloton, meanwhile, is at 45 seconds.

 

Movistar, Sky and Tinkoff are all represented in this chase group, with Ruben Fernandez, David Lopez and Yury Trofimov all aboard.

 

163km remaining from 193km

There are now 34 riders at head of the race, with a lead of 30 seconds over the main peloton. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) leads over the top of the Rates, ahead of Elissonde, Bilbao and Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), with a small gap to the rest of this large break.

 

158km remaining from 193km

Reaching the top of the Rates in front means that Fraile nudges ahead of Elissonde in the king of the mountains classification, but there is a greater drama further down the road as Sky's Michal Golas accelerates on the descent with Chris Froome on his wheel. They open a small gap, forcing a small group including Quintana, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Andrew Talansky to respond in person. They have a small gap over the peloton, but Contador has missed the bus and Tinkoff are massing on the front to shut it down.

 

150km remaining from 193km

Tinkoff duly snuff out the move on the descent of the Rates. It would have been something of a surprise had Contador been caught out by a move torn straight from the Contador playbook. The end result of that activity is that our 30 leaders are now a mere 17 seconds clear of the bunch. This race could very well come back together all over again.

 

The 30 riders just in front of the main peloton, incidentally, are: Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Yury Trofimov (Tinkoff), David Lopez (Sky), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Damien Howson (Orica-BikeExchange), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Andrey Zeits (Astana), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Drapac), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling), Clément Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), David Arroyo (Caja Rural-RGA), Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-RGA), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Kenny Elissonde (FDJ).

 

144km remaining from 193km

Just seven of that break remain at the head of the race at Sagra. Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) have a lead of 27 seconds over a peloton that might be more inclined to slacken its pace behind a break of more manageable dimensions.

 

140km remaining from 193km

Just when it seemed as though this stage was going to settle down, Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) attacks off the front of the peloton ahead of the Alto de Vall de Ebo. Several riders scramble to respond...

 

Pete Kennaugh (Sky) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) are among the riders in the chasing group that has formed thanks to Meintjes' move. They're 25 seconds behind our seven leaders, though the peloton is still close at hand.

 

137km remaining from 193km

On the category 2 Alto de Vall de Ebo (8km at 5.4%), the seven escapees are 27 seconds clear of the chase group, and 45 seconds up on the peloton.

 

The men in front are Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis).

 

The chasers are Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Peter Kennaugh, Christian Knees (Team Sky), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange), Pierre Latour (AG2R - La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale - Drapac), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Louis Meintjes (Lampre - Merida), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Eduard Prades (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie).

 

Leopold Konig attacks from the peloton in a bid to latch across to the chasing group. This has been a breathless opening to this penultimate stage, which has yet to settle into a fixed pattern. 

 

Konig's move has the residual effect of encouraging Movistar to up their pace at the front of the peloton. The race could all come back together again on the slopes of the Alto de Vall de Ebo.

 

After the two front groups come together, Romain Hardy (Cofidis) jumps clear alone, while Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) gives lone pursuit.

 

126km remaining from 193km

Romain Hardy (Cofidis) leads over the summit of the Alto de Vall de Ebo, ten seconds clear of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), with the peloton just behind the Spaniard.

 

Sanchez joins forces with Hardy at the head of the race, 30 seconds clear of the peloton.

 

While Hardy and Sanchez stretch out their advantage towards the minute mark on the front, Alejandro Valverde infiltrates a 15-man counter attack. Sky are represented here by Salvatore Puccio. Ivan Rovny is on hand for Tinkoff and Damien Howson for Orica-BikeExchange.

 

120km remaining from 193km

There are no fewer than three Movistar riders in this chase group, two Sky riders and two from Tinkoff. Valverde has Dani Moreno and Jose Joaquin Rojas for company, while David Lopez and Salvatore Puccio are on hand for Sky. These chasers are 55 seconds down on the two leaders. 

 

The chase group contains the following riders: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff), Yury Trofimov (Tinkoff), David Lopez (Sky), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Damien Howson (Orica-BikeExchange), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r-la Mondiale), Benjamin King (Cannondale-Drapac), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Daniel Moreno (Movistar), Bart De Clerq (Lotto Soudal).

 

117km remaining from 193km

The situation on a fraught day of racing is as follows. Romain Hardy (Cofidis) and Luis Leon Sanchez) are at the front of the race, one minute clear of a chasing group that features Alejandro Valverde and two of his Movistar teammates. The peloton, containing red jersey Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome, is at 1:20.

 

Even race radio is struggling to keep up with the fluctuations at the head of this race. The chasing group splits and Valverde drops back to the main peloton.

 

112km remaining from 193km

The situation on the category 2 Alto de Tollos, the day's third climb, is as follows. Hardy and Luis Leon Sanchez are in front, 1:24 clear of the 15-man chasing group. The main peloton is some three minutes down.

 

The riders in that reformed chase group are Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Yuri Trofimov (Tinkoff), David Lopez (Team Sky), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Robert Gesink (Lotto NL Jumbo), Damien Howson (Orica - BikeExchange), Fabio Felline (Trek - Segafredo), Pierre Latour (AG2R - La Mondiale), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Ben King (Cannondale - Drapac), Mathias Frank, Clément Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Valerio Conti (Lampre - Merida) and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie).

 

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), meanwhile, launches an optimistic solo attack from the peloton in a bid to bridge up to the escape and secure some mountains points.

 

105km remaining from 193km

With live television pictures, we can confirm that the Cofidis rider at the head of the race is not Romain Hardy but Rudy Molard. Luis Leon Sanchez and Molard are 2:15 clear of the chasers and five minutes ahead of the main peloton.

 

100km remaining from 193km

Molard and Sanchez led over the top of the day's third climb, the Tollos. Elissonde, meanwhile, has managed to bridge across to the chasing group and hits the front as they tackle the descent. He needs points on the penultimate climb if he is to carry the mountains jersey to Madrid.

 

98km remaining from 193km

The chasers are 2:30 behind our leading duo, while the pace has - finally - eased in the main peloton, which trails by almost seven minutes.

 

Jose Joaquin Rojas crashes on the sweeping descent off the Tollos. The Spanish champion slides off the road and underneath the crash barrier, and he is being treated on the embankment below the road. It is not clear whether he will be able to continue in the race. 

 

Rojas lies motionless on his back on the roadside, though he appears to be conscious. The peloton comes by the site of his crash, and the following ambulance has stopped. Rojas' Vuelta is clearly over. 

 

92km remaining from 193km

Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez are three minutes up on the chasers and 8:33 ahead of the Movistar-led peloton. After an intense opening two hours of racing, the urgency has dropped a few notches over the past half hour or so.

 

89km remaining from 193km

We can confirm that Jose Joaquin Rojas has abandoned the Vuelta a Espana following his crash. The peloton's pace drops still further, and they now trail the two leaders by 9:25.

 

84km remaining from 193km

Movistar lead the peloton but with little urgency. They'll be happy to let the break hoover up the time bonuses at the finish and the peloton's deficit stretches out towards ten minutes.

 

And almost on cue, Orica-BikeExchange take over at the head of the peloton and up the pace. The Australian squad are hoping Chaves can dislodge Contador from third, and Simon Yates can move above Andrew Talansky into fifth, and they are setting their stall out here.

 

77km remaining from 193km

Elissonde and the chasers are struggling to dovetail their efforts, and they remain 2:30 down on the two leaders.

 

Orica-BikeExchange's efforts at the head of the peloton, meanwhile, have clipped the break's lead back to 8:30.

 

Orica-BikeExchange have relented once again, however, and the pace in the main peloton drops visibly. It was a fast, fast start to the day's stage, and there is a vicious finale, too, in the shape of the Alto de Aitana.

 

The Vuelta is not the only racing action this weekend, of course. Tony Martin won the stage 7a time trial of the Tour of Britain in Bristol this morning, while Steve Cummings retains the yellow jersey ahead of the afternoon leg.

 

71km remaining from 193km

Elissonde and Latour are attempting to bring a little urgency to the chasers' efforts on the uncategorised climb that follows the intermediate sprint at Alcoi. They trail Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez by 2:20.

 

69km remaining from 193km

Rudy Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez stick resolutely to their task at the head of the race, while the general air of detente continues to linger in the peloton, which is now more than 10 minutes behind.

 

67km remaining from 193km

While the peloton ambles in pleasant sunshine, the top of the Alto de Aitana is, for now at least, shrouded in fog. The climb itself is steady and without any particularly steep sections, though the final seven kilometres are on narrow, roughly-surfaced roads, which adds to the difficulty.

 

63km remaining from 193km

The calm before the storm in the peloton, as the deficit stretches out towards 12 minutes. The category 2 Puerto de Tudons is next up. Its summit comes with 44 kilometres remaining, and is followed by a long fast descent to the foot of the Alto de Aitana.

 

The 13 chasers, meanwhile, are now just two minutes behind Molard and Sanchez, who are continuing to collaborate smoothly at the head of the race.

 

57km remaining from 193km

Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez are five kilometres from the base of the day's penultimate climb, the category 2 Puerto de Tudons (7.1km at 5.3%).

 

Orica-BikeExchange have decided to take up the reins once again at the head of the peloton and they are upping the pace once again. Their challenge today is to discommode Contador and Talansky in search of 3rd and 5th place, respectively.

 

50km remaining from 193km

Kenny Elissonde sets a brisk tempo at the head of the break on the lower slopes of the Tudons. The chasers trail the leaders by 2:04, while the peloton is at 13:01.

 

48km remaining from 193km

Molard leads Sanchez on the climb, but Elissonde's forcing behind has reduced their advantage to 1:40. Orica-BikeExchange's pace-setting in the peloton, meanwhile, has shaved the deficit to 12:15.

 

Elissonde wears the polka dot jersey of king of the mountains, but in the provisional standings he two points behind Omar Fraile. The Frenchman is desperate to pick up more than the sole point for third place at the top of this climb.

 

46km remaining from 193km

Elissonde is finally getting some help from his comrades in this chasing group but they won't catch Sanchez and Molard before the top of this ascent. 

 

Orica-BikeExchange continue to lay down a brisk tempo in the main peloton, as they begin the softening-up process ahead of the final ascent up the Aitana. It looks set to be a rapid run-in to the foot of that last climb.

 

45km remaining from 193km

Orica-BikeExchange's pace-making has whittled down the peloton very significantly. Pete Kennaugh (Sky) is among the riders struggling at the back, while Contador seems to be lacking teammates.

 

Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) doesn't wait for the Aitana to try to recoup his deficit to Contador. The Colombian attacks almost three kilometres from the top of the category 2 Tudons and opens a small gap on the peloton.

 

Molard and Sanchez are in front over the Tudons, while Elissonde leads the chaser past the same point, 1:42 down.

 

The chasing group's progress was interrupted near the summit by a crash involving Clement Chevrier. The IAM Cycling rider was brought down by a spectator who stepped into the road, though the rest of the group managed to pick their way around him.

 

Contador takes over at the front of the reduced red jersey group in a bid to peg back Chaves, who has opened a gap of 30 seconds or so on this 20-strong group.

 

Contador brings the reduced red jersey group to the top of the Tudos, 8:12 down on the leaders, and 20 seconds down on Chaves. Team Sky take over on the plunging descent that follows, with Leopold Konig leading Froome at the front of this group.

36km remaining from 193km

The situation on the descent of the Tudons sees Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez in front, 1:44 clear of a chasing group led by Kenny Elissonde. Esteban Chaves is alone, 7:55 down, while the reduced red jersey group - which includes Quintana, Froome, Contador and Simon Yates - is 8:15 behind.

 

 

34km remaining from 193km

Damien Howson dropped out of the break and waited for Chaves. The two have joined forces on the descent, and that's a very useful support for Chaves ahead of the 21km climb to the finish. Chaves has 27 seconds in hand on Contador and the red jersey group. He was 1:11 down on Contador before the stage began.

 

32km remaining from 193km

Howson's help is benefiting Chaves, who stretches his lead over the red jersey group out to 30 seconds. 

 

30km remaining from 193km

This is a man of the match performance from Howson, whose pace-setting on the descent has helped to bring Chaves a whole minute clear of the red jersey group. Neither Sky nor Movistar have any real need to chase Chaves just yet, and Contador is without teammates in the group.

 

The Howson-Chaves tandem leads the red jersey group by 1:10. Chaves moves ever closer to Contador's third place.

 

Chaves is in virtual third place on the road, as he stretches his lead over the Contador-red jersey group to 1:17.

 

25km remaining from 193km

In the battle for stage honours, meanwhile, Molard and Sanchez are 1:44 clear of the chasing group, which is being led by Mathias Frank on the descent. 

 

24km remaining from 193km

Chaves now has 1:30 in hand on the Quintana-Froome-Contador group. Froome will inevitably accelerate on the Aitana in a bid to overhaul Quintana, and that duel might - might - have the effect of helping Contador reduce his deficit to Chaves.

 

22km remaining from 193km

For now, though, Chaves - still being pulled along by Howson - continues to augment his advantage. He is 1:49 ahead of Contador now.

 

21km remaining from 193km

Rudy Molard and Luis Leon Sanchez begin the Alto de Aitana (21 km at 5.9) with a lead of 1:39 over the chasers. Chaves is 6:10 down, while Quintana, Froome and Contador are at 8 minutes.

 

20km remaining from 193km

The chasing group is beginning to fragment on the lower slopes of the Aitana, but Molard and Sanchez are hanging tough out in front for now, and they are still 1:43 clear of their pursuers.

 

Chaves, still locked on Howson's wheel, begins the Aitana. He is 5:35 down on the two leaders, but some 2:05 ahead of the Contador group.

 

Frank and Kochetkov have moved clear of the rest of the chasers, but they are making no inroads into Molard and Sanchez's lead, which remains locked at 1:43.

 

18km remaining from 193km

All eyes for now, mind, are on the race between Chaves and Contador for third overall. Chaves has 2:15 in hand on the red jersey group, which is being led by Contador at the base of the Aitana.

 

17km remaining from 193km

Molard and Sanchez are still 1:43 clear of the chasers - Frank and Kochetkov - as the gradient stiffens. Chaves and Howson are at 5:21, while the Contador group has reduced its deficit to 7:04.

 

Trofimov dropped back from the chasing group, incidentally, and he is now putting in a stint at the head of the red jersey group in support of Contador. His efforts have shorn a handful of seconds off Chaves' lead.

 

16km remaining from 193km

In the battle for stage honours, meanwhile, Kochetkov and Frank appear to have left the rest of the chase group behind, but they still have more than 1:30 to recoup on our two leaders, Molard and Sanchez.

 

Howson swings over after his fine effort in support of his leader, and now it's all up to Chaves. The Colombian is 1:40 clear of Contador with more than 10 miles of climbing ahead of him.

 

14km remaining from 193km

Valerio Conti attacks from the chasing group and he sweeps past Chevrier and Kochetkov, and sets out in lone pursuit of Molard and Sanchez. He is just 35 seconds down on the two leaders.

 

13km remaining from 193km

There are riders strewn across the mountainside, but Conti is steadily gaining on Molard and Sanchez. He is just 25 seconds down on the two leaders.

 

Chaves is at 4:10, while the red jersey group is at 5:56, Trofimov still leading.

 

Simon Yates attacks from the red jersey group and Talansky is immediately onto his wheel in order to defend his fifth place overall. Contador takes a pull on the front to peg them back, and now Movistar have decided to set the tempo in this group.

 

Quintana still have Valverde, Castroviego and Ruben Fernandez with him, and his Movistar guard sets the tempo now, 5:50 down on the two leaders.

 

12km remaining from 193km

Luis Leon Sanchez gets word that Conti is just 15 seconds down, and the Spaniard decides enough is enough. He accelerates viciously and drops the gallant Molard. 

 

Luis Leon Sanchez is alone in front but his pedalling is leaden. Molard is 50 metres behind him but Conti is not far off the lead.

 

11km remaining from 193km

Luis Leon Sanchez leads Conti by 24 seconds,Chaves by 3:47 and the red jersey group by 5:37. There are plenty of more riders spread across the mountain, but these are the gaps that matter right now.

 

Conti is closing in on Sanchez, but Gesink, De Clerq and Latour aren't out of this yet, either, as they close to within sight of the Italian. 

 

10km remaining from 193km

Trofimov is back at the front of the red jersey group, but Contador is now two minutes down on Chaves. As things stand, Contador is losing third place overall.

 

Simon Yates attacks once again from the red jersey group, in another bid to shake Talansky lose and move up to fifth overall. The Briton doesn't get very far, however, as Trofimov swiftly pegs him back.

 

9km remaining from 193km

Conti catches Molard but he is still 30 seconds behind Sanchez, while Gesink et al are closing in on him. Chaves is at 3:45 while the red jersey group is at 5:32.

 

Conti drops Molard and sets off in lone pursuit of Sanchez. Back in the red jersey group, meanwhile, Movistar have taken the reins once again Froome is sitting near the rear of the group and has yet to probe Quintana. The Briton trails by 1:21 on GC - and this is, of course, his last chance to make up the ground.

 

Contador climbs out of the saddle and takes over at the front of the red jersey group. He is 1:50 down on Chaves and needs to whittle that down by 40 seconds if he is to hold onto his podium place.

 

8km remaining from 193km

Chaves is still pedalling very fluidly, mind, and still on course to claim the third step of the podium in Madrid tomorrow.

 

Conti looked destined to catch and pass Sanchez a few kilometres ago, but the Spaniard is putting up fierce resistance, and the gap remains at 30 seconds.

 

7km remaining from 193km

Luis Leon Sanchez leads into the final 7 kilometres, 33 seconds ahead of Conti. Chaves is at 3:33, while the red jersey group is at 5:30.

 

Alejandro Valverde now sets the tempo in the red jersey group, glancing over his shoulder every now and then to check on Froome. The principal challenge has yet to show his hand on the Aitana, and he is rapidly running out of road.

 

6km remaining from 193km

The road narrows and steepens in the final 6 kilometres. Sanchez has 35 seconds in hand on Conti, who is about to be caught by Gesink et al.

 

Darwin Atapuma (BMC) attacks as soon as the chasers catch Conti. The Colombian has 26 seconds to recoup on Sanchez.

 

Atapuma's acceleration has closed Sanchez's lead to just 20 seconds.

 

Chaves, meanwhile, is still some two minutes clear of the red jersey group, and showing no signs of relenting.

 

5km remaining from 193km

Mathias Frank (IAM) joins Atapuma in pursuit of Sanchez. They trail the Spaniard by just 20 seconds.

 

Chaves is now picking off the remnants of the break and his lead over the red jersey group remains steady at two minutes.

 

4km remaining from 193km

Atapuma catches and passes Sanchez as the gradient stiffens. Frank and Latour have also moved past the Spaniard.

 

Chaves trails by 3:16, while Konig takes over at the front of the red jersey group, 5:05 off the leaders.

 

4km remaining from 193km

Atapuma, Frank and Latour are at the front of the race, battling for stage honours, but Froome is preparing to attack Quintana...

 

Froome accelerates from the red jersey group with 5 kilometres remaining. Only Quintana can follow,

 

Froome kicks again but Quintana will not be shaken. They have, however, moved clear of Contador et al. 

 

3km remaining from 193km

Atapuma is alone in front, but Frank and Latour are not giving up. This will be a slugging match all the way to the summit.

 

A third vicious acceleration from Froome, but Quintana doesn't concede an inch. They have caught Lopez, who was up the road.

 

2km remaining from 193km

Atapuma is 40 metres ahead of Frank and Latour. Chaves is 3:02 down, while Quintana and Froome are at 4:26. Contador has been distanced and will surely slip to 4th overall after this stage.

 

2km remaining from 193km

Latour and Frank catch Atapuma, and Latour immediately attacks. Atapuma responds with a dig of his own. Only Latour can follow. Frank sits up, surely a beaten man.

 

2km remaining from 193km

Latour and Atapuma are both ragged at this point as they ride side by side. Latour accelerates again but he can't shake Atapuma. Frank is struggling but not yet altogether out of the picture. Felline, meanwhile, is launching a late fightback, and catching up to Frank.

 

1km remaining from 193km

Another tired acceleration from Latour, but still Atapuma follows.

 

Four minutes down the road, Froome launches another brace of attacks, but Quintana matches him pedal stroke for pedal stroke each time. They have 3 kilometres to go.

 

1km remaining from 193km

Latour leads Atapuma, but Felline is on the point of catching them..

 

Chaves is at 3:06 and riding into third overall. Quintana and Froome are at 4:06. Contador is shipping time behind.

 

1km remaining from 193km

Latour leads into the final kilometre and kicks again. Atapuma resists, while Felline is just metres behind...

 

Latour climbs out of the saddle and accelerates. This latest dig has done for Felline's hopes, but Atapuma will not be moved...

 

Atapuma comes around a struggling Latour. But the Frenchman refuses to give up. This is brutal...

 

300 metres to go and somehow, Latpur has clawed his way back up to Atapuma. Shades of Rocky versus Apollo Creed...

 

Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale) wins stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana. He outlasts Atapuma to claim the honours on the Alto de Aitana...

 

Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) takes third.

 

Quintana and Froome approach the flamme rouge. Froome attacks again but he can't shake Quintana, who is about to win the Vuelta a Espana.

 

Esteban Chaves, meanwhile, is climbing towards the third step of the podium...

 

Chaves comes home 3:17 down on the stage.

Froome and Quintana aren't far behind. They made up a lot of ground thanks to Froome's litany of accelerations in the finale.

 

Quintana accelerates away from Froome in the finishing straight and comes in 4:05 down on Latour. 

 

Contador crosses the line, after losing third overall by 13 seconds to Chaves, who is beaming for the television cameras. Contador is consoled by Ivan Basso.

 

 

Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), meanwhile, has secured fifth overall at this Vuelta by placing 12th on the stage, 4:34 down on Latour, but 30 seconds ahead of Simon Yates.

 

Result:

1 Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5:19:41
2 Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC Racing Team 5:19:43
3 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 5:19:58
4 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 5:20:21
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 5:20:44
6 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 5:21:09
7 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 5:21:43
8 Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie 5:22:42
9 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 5:22:58
10 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 5:23:44

 

General classification after stage 20: 


1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 80:42:36
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 80:43:59
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 80:46:44
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 80:46:57
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 80:50:19

 

Result:

1 Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5:19:41
2 Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC Racing Team 0:00:02
3 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:17
4 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:00:40
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:01:03
6 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:28
7 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:02:02
8 Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie 0:03:01
9 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:17
10 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:04:03
11 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:04:05
12 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:04:34
13 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:41
14 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:05:04
15 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:05:10
 

 

General classification:

1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 80:42:36
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:23
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:04:08
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:21
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:43

 General classification:

1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 80:42:36
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:23
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:04:08
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:21
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:43
6 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:08:33
7 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:11:18
8 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar Team 0:13:04
9 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:13:17
10 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:14:07

Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. The full report, results and pictures will follow here. We'll have all the news and reaction from the Alto de Aitana, and we will of course be back with more from the final leg tomorrow.

 

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