LAGOS DE COVADONGA (VN) — Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural) gave a boost to his wild-card team by winning stage 15 of the Vuelta a España on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Piedra, who was part of a 10-man break that went clear early in the 186.5km stage, left his mates with just over 10km to race on the final climb to Lagos de Covadonga and held on to take the biggest victory of his career by more than two minutes over Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r La Mondiale).
“I could never have imagined winning a stage like today,” said an elated Piedra. “I had good sensations and I got into a good group. Everyone was working together to get to the final climb.
“My legs felt good and I decided to go early to see who would come with me. I was surprised when no one followed. From there, I just kept a cool head and paced myself.
“To win is a huge elation. We are a small team and to win one of the biggest stages in the Vuelta proves we deserve to be in the race. I hope there is a big party tonight.”
Behind, the race for the overall victory narrowed as Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) launched attack after attack, trying — but failing — to dislodge race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
“Joaquim is in the strongest shape of his life,” said Contador. “I was not feeling very well today so I preferred to keep my energy for the final mountain stage.”
He did, however, put Chris Froome (Sky) into difficulty, and while the three Spanish rivals crossed in the same time, 9:25 down on Piedra, the Sky rider lost another 35 seconds to the trio and slid to fourth place on GC.
Rodriguez continues to lead Contador by 22 seconds, but Valverde is now third overall at 1:41 with Froome fourth at 2:16.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the Vuelta a España.