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Battle royal on Vuelta Queen stage
Sep 4th, 12. Two man on man duels lit up the Queen stage of the Vuelta where the final 19km Hors Category climb tested riders with ramps over 20%.
For the stage win, Omega Pharma QuickStep's Dario Cataldo and Vacansoleil-DCM's Thomas De Gendt battled up the final climb after forming a two man breakaway 55km into the 183.5km stage.
At the base of the HC Valgrande-Pajares Cuitunigru - 6.9% average gradient climb, 19.4km in length - the duo had a 7m26s lead on the chasers - they knew the stage was theirs to win.
Cataldo upped the pace to drop De Gendt with 2km to go, and had as much as a 20sec gap going into the final 800m.
However, De Gendt was battling his way back with 200m remaining, and Cataldo had to give it everything he had to stay in front.
The cadence of Cataldo slowed due to the brutal 23% ramps, his hands were gripping the tops of his bars, and the pain was obvious on his face. Despite the total body fatigue of his efforts, he held on for the victory by 7sec.
"It's an unbelievable victory because this morning, I was not 100 percent due to my crash of yesterday," Cataldo said.
"The last kilometre was the longest of my life. In the last 100m I was ready to put my foot on the ground, but I continued because I had Bramati [Team DS] on the radio, and the public was so close cheering me and supporting me. I did everything to pass the finish [and win], and when I did, I was so happy, but so tired that for the first moments of the stage victory it was impossible to celebrate."
GC duelThe previous two stages have seen a great fight unfold between tour leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank) and today was no different.
Unfortunately for Contador, he still could not gap Rodriguez enough to gain a time difference - despite numerous attempts up the final exhausting climb.
"We tried, but regardless of the result I am very happy with the race we are doing both my team and myself. I think we are giving color and excitement to this race so far," Contador said.
Rodriguez neutralised one last Contador attack to steal past him and take 3rd place on the stage 2m39s behind the top two riders. The 2sec time gap back to Contador and the bonus points for 3rd place extended his lead in the General Classification to 28sec.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 3rd on GC, lost time today finishing 19sec behind Rodriguez in 5th place. Chris Froome (Team Sky) lost further ground finished 2m33s back on the tour leader.
As much as the excitement is up the front of the race, spare a thought for the sprinters further back. They too had to haul themselves up the extremely challenging climbs, a much tougher ask for these guys compared to the mountain goat like climbing specialists. More than a third of the field finished further than 25min back.
Tomorrow the peloton gets to enjoy the second rest day of the tour.
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