Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin edged out Chris Froome in a frantic finale to claim victory and the overall race lead on the ninth stage of Spain’s Vuelta on Sunday.
The Giant-Alpecin rider accelerated past Froome on the final 100m of a category one climb to the finish of the 168.3km stage from Torrevieja to Cumbre del Sol to win in a time of 4hr 09min 55sec.
Froome, who is aiming to become just the third man to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year, was two seconds back with Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez in third.
Dumoulin now leads the overall standings by 57 seconds from Rodriguez with overnight leader Esteban Chaves a further two seconds back in third.
Froome moves up to eighth overall, 1min 18sec behind Dumoulin.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana is now just one second ahead of Froome and remains eight seconds back on his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde.
“I’m unbelievably surprised. I could never imagine to win a climb like this,” said Dumoulin.
However, the 24-year-old ruled out beating the likes of Froome and Quintana to the red jersey come the final stage in Madrid in two weeks time.
“I didn’t even dream about it because it is impossible.
“There are some big climbs to come. We will see how it goes and if it’s not to be it’s not to be, but this was my day.”
Froome had been briefly cut adrift from the other general classification favourites as a series of attacks were launched with just over three kilometres to go.
However, he recovered brilliantly and looked set for the stage win as he moved ahead in the final kilometre only to be undone by one final push by Dumoulin.
“I’m not at all disappointed. Of course here I knew my condition wouldn’t be the best after the Tour de France,” said Froome.
“To be honest I am really happy with today. I didn’t win the stage but Tom Dumoulin deserved it, he’s in fantastic condition.”
The race had earlier been dominated by the news that Belgian rider Kris Boeckmans had undergone surgery after being placed in an induced coma following a crash-ridden stage on Saturday.
Race organisers confirmed that Boeckmans is stable and could be brought out of the coma by doctors tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Peter Sagan became the latest in a number of high-profile riders forced to withdraw from the race.
The Slovakian was hit by an auxiliary motorcycle on Saturday and suffered first and second degree burns on his left side according to his Tinkoff-Saxo team.
Ireland’s Dan Martin, American Tejay van Garderen and France’s Nacer Bouhanni were all forced to abandon after being caught up in the same crash that injured Boeckmans on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse