Fabio Aru chose the perfect moment to launch his attack on the steep slopes of the summit finish. With daring aplomb, the young Italian rode away from his rivals to claim his second Grand Tour victory of the year.
Valverde and Rodriguez take bonus seconds on the stage, but Contador stays in the leader’s jersey.
A short, intense skirmish
At only 153.3km this stage was one of the shortest in the Vuelta. Add to this, the fact that several riders were anxious to make up for time lost on the time trial yesterday, and you have all the ingredients for a fast, attacking stage.
So it turned out to be. The first hour was ridden at a blistering 50kph with multiple attacks as a breakaway tried to gain an advantage. Johan Le Bon (FDJ) tried at least twice before successfully forming a quartet with Elia Favill (Lampre-Merida), Peio Bilbao (Caja Rural), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) and Vasil Kiryienka (Sky).
With the first climb of the day approaching Kiryienka rode away on his own. The Belrusian is successful at these long range attacks, but it was not to be today. With Tinkoff-Saxo and Katusha working hard on the front of the peloton, he was caught just as they reached the category one final climb.
The Alto de San Miguel de Aralar is just short of 10km long, has an average gradient of 7.5% masking some steeper ramps of 14% towards the summit, and a very bumpy road surface. What a setting for battle-royale between the GC favourites.
Robert Gesink (Belkin) rode away on the early part of the climb, forcing a flurry of attacks from the chasing group, including Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) who set off in lone pursuit. The constant attacks and fast pace put many riders in trouble. Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) was dropped, and Chris Froome (Sky) was clearly not comfortable, yo-yoing off the back as his teammates (counter productively) increased the pace at the front.
With two kilometres to go, Robert Gesink was reeled in, and the lead group was reduced to just nine very select riders. It was very exciting to watch as the GC favourites took it in turns to drive the pace. With a kilometre to go, and the riders taking a split second for a breather, Fabio Aru (Astana) launched his winning attack with exquisite timing and never looked like being caught.
His joy was clear from the huge grin on his face. But just in case we missed it, he said: “I’m hugely happy. I didn’t think it was possible, but everything went well today. … Really my main target was to go for a stage. I’ll just take it day by day from now on.”
Nairo Quintana Abandons
I hate it when riders have to abandon. And although Vuelta has been brutally hard, up until today there had only been four abandons. Today we saw that number double as Steve Morabito (BMC). Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and of course Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were forced to bow out.
The Colombian rider, and one of the favourites to win the Vuelta, took a hard fall in yesterday’s time trial, and unfortunately was involved in another today. He was taken to hospital for further examinations on his damaged right shoulder.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Today I have chosen Chris Froome (Sky) for sheer perseverance on day when he was clearly not on his best form. Chapeau Mr Froome.
Stage 10 result
1. Fabio Aru (Astana) 3:41:03
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0.06
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) same time
4. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t
5. Chris Froome (Sky) s/t
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 40:26:56
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:20
3. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +1:08
4. Chris Froome (Sky) +1:20
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +1:35
6. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) +1:52
7. Fabio Aru (Astana) +2:13
8. Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) +2:22
9. Robert Gesink (Belkin) +2:55
10. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) +3:51
Points leader: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano).
King of the Mountains leader: Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural).
Combined jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Team classification: Movistar.