Dario Cataldo gave Omega Pharma Quick Step a rare win at the Vuelta a Espana, taking the brutal stage to Cuitu Nigru, while Joaquim Rodriguez further cemented his standing as the likely overall winner in Madrid. Cataldo traded blows with Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil, the two almost coming to a standstill on the mid-twenty-percent gradients over the ski roads to the finish, but it was the Italian who wobbled a bit less, and survived for the win.
De Gendt and Cataldo entered the final climb with over 8 minutes on their closest chasers, having escaped on the prior ascent, but groups of stage-hunters set off in chase, and the peloton saw Euskaltel up the pace with Saxo Bank, Sky and Katusha organized in large numbers behind them. The ascent to Cuitu Negru meant for a long, difficult finish, nearly 20km and the last 5-6km seeing gradients as high as 22%. Saxo Bank began applying the pressure big time as the race went under 15km to go, and with Daniel Moreno and Rafael Majka ground many competitors, including Chris Froome, to dust. The Sky man, second in the Tour, slipped off the back en route to losing close to three minutes to the leaders. By 7km to go, the elites were down to Rodriguez, Contador, Nairo Quintana, Valverde and Moreno.
By the time they hit the 20%+ gradients, Contador and Rodriguez were trading pedalstrokes, with Quintana having burned himself on an acceleration and Valverde unable to keep up. Meanwhile, up ahead Cataldo found another gear and left De Gendt, soloing home to the stage victory. Contador continued to try to gain time on the leader Rodriguez, but Purito may have won the Vuelta today. Nobody has broken him yet, and there has been no indication that they will before Madrid.
- Dario Cataldo, OPQS
- Thomas De Gendt, Vacansoleil, at 0.07
- Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 2.39
- Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank, at 2.41
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, at 2.58
- Contador, at 0.28
- Valverde, at 2.04
- Chris Froome, Sky, at 4.52