LA LASTRILLA, Spain (AFP) — Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the 19th stage of the Vuelta a España on Friday, taking his second victory of the tour and of the season.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) held on to the overall leader’s red jersey for the third straight day.
Gilbert launched an attack less than a kilometer from the line jumped ahead of a reduced peloton to finish ahead of second-place overall Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Daniel Moreno (Katusha).
The BMC rider also won the ninth stage, his first win in what has been a difficult season.
“It is my second stage win, I am very happy, my team was attentive all day,” said Gilbert. “We discussed the stage and we were told that the end was very technical, it is really where the pack broke up and I thought for me it was better to sprint.”
Contador finished 11th, three seconds behind Gilbert, but was able to hold on to the overall race lead with just two stages left.
“It was complicated in the end. The last 30 kilometers were very tense,” he said.
Valverde sits second in the overall standings, 1:35 behind Contador, while compatriot Joaquim Rodríguez of Katusha is third, 2:21 from the leader.
“I fought to win the stage, but Gilbert attacked from far away and it was impossible. Tomorrow is going to be hard,” said Valverde.
The Vuelta continues on Saturday with a mountainous ride from La Faisanera to Bola del Mundo, a distance of 170.7km that includes several first category climbs. It is the final of 10 uphill finishes in this Vuelta.
Rodríguez all but conceded defeat to Contador in the pursuit of victory in the tour.
“It will be really complicated to take the overall lead, unless a disaster hits Alberto. But I don’t think so,” said Rodríguez.