Italy’s Fabio Aru confirmed the huge impression he made in this year’s Tour of Italy as he won the 11th stage of the Tour of Spain on Wednesday, a 153.4 kilometres ride from Pamplona.
The 24-year-old – third in the Giro – moved up to seventh in the overall standings in the season’s last Grand Tour, though, 2min 13sec behind overall leader Alberto Contador of Spain.
Contador’s chances of winning his third Tour of Spain title increased markedly as Colombia’s Tour of Italy champion Nairo Quintana’s campaign ended in dramatic fashion as he broke a bone in his right shoulder in what was his second crash in as many days.
For Aru though there were only tears of joy at the end of the gruelling stage.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Aru, who was winning his second stage on a Grand Tour.
“I am very pleased. It is fabulous for me and for the team who have all worked so hard to get this to happen.
“I don’t think it is feasible for me to win the overall title, though, I hope I can repeat this stage victory.”
Contador, who took over the lead after Tuesday’s stage displacing Quintana, came in fourth in the stage itself just ahead of Britain’s 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
Contador, winner in 2008 and 2012, holds a 20sec lead over compatriot Alejandro Valverde, who was second on the stage, while Froome is in fourth, 1min 21sec in arrears.
“I have many potential rivals still in the hunt so I have to look after my race and not try and sit back and watch what they are doing,” said the 31-year-old.
“It is going to be difficult for me to stay in the lead till the end but I feel good and my performance in the time-trial on Tuesday was a real confidence booster,” he added.
Quintana’s chances of adding the Tour of Spain title to his Tour of Italy crown evaporated early on the stage and he will undergo an operation on Thursday.
Contador, who himself failed to finish the Tour de France after he broke his tibia in the early stages, said he felt sorry for Quintana.
“I am sad for him because he really prepared hard for this race,” said Contador.
“I know what it’s like when all your preparations are undermined by a crash.”
Thursday’s 12th stage will come as a relief to the sprinters, who have had a tough past couple of days first with the time-trial and then with this tough mountain stage, as it is a flat picturesque 166.4km ride amongst the vineyards beginning and finishing in Logrono, the winemaking centre of Spain.