Nairo Quintana took the overall lead of the Spanish Vuelta from Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde on a rainy and mountainous ninth stage won by Winner Anacona of Colombia on Sunday.
Anacona, riding for Lampre Merida, separated from a large breakaway group before finally shedding Bob Jungels and then Javier Moreno on the final ascent of the 185km ride finishing at the category-one Aramon Valdelinares summit.
It was the 26-year-old Anacona’s first career stage win. Anacona missed several months last year, after fracturing his ankle while training.
“This is the most important day of my career,” Anacona said. “I had my doubts that I would have the strength to reach the end, but I wanted to take advantage of the chance because I knew it would be tough later.”
After days of high temperatures followed by winds on Saturday, rain hit Sunday’s stage early on and then returned with force as riders started to climb amid flashes of lightening with 25km to go.
A late attack further back by Alberto Contador that only Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez managed to match left Valverde and Chris Froome struggling to keep up and crossing about 20 seconds behind the other favorites.
Contador showed no signs of the fractured right shin that knocked him out of the Tour de France and had him doubtful about competing in the Vuelta.
“I saw some riders straggling and went for it,” Contador said. “I’m still not in top shape to keep it up for a long stretch, but I am happy. I didn’t prepare for the Vuelta, and only decided to come at the last minute, without proper training. I believe I will get stronger as we go forward, but I know there are other riders who have prepared more than I have.”
Quintana, the Giro d’Italia winner, finished with a three-second lead over Contador.
“In reality, I didn’t do much, I just arrived with the same time as the favorites, so it is basically a draw at this point,” Quintana said. “My goal is to try and keep the red jersey. If I can’t wear the red jersey until Santiago, then at least I want to be able to wear it on the final day.”
Valverde fell to third at eight seconds behind, followed by Anacona one more second back.
Froome dropped to 28 seconds back with Rodriguez now trailing by 30 seconds.
Yesterday was the first rest day of the 21-stage event, which then leaves the southern part of the peninsula to head toward the mountains in the north. The 69th edition ends in Santiago de Compostela on Sept. 14.