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Landa & Aru Dominate Vuelta Doomsday

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Sept 2, 2015 – Chris Froome’s hopes of becoming only the third rider to win the Tour de France and Spain’s Vuelta in the same year faded on Wednesday after he was cut adrift on the 11th stage. Astana rider Mikel Landa, third in this year’s Giro d’Italia, won the stage at the summit of Cortals d’Encamp in Andorra in the Pyrenees, as his team-mate Fabio Aru seized the overall lead.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Aru, 25 and second in the Giro, attacked on the final ascent of the daunting 138km ride through Andorra to take the overall leader’s red jersey from Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. It represented quite a turnaround in Astana’s fortunes after their team leader and 2014 Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali was expelled from the race last week for getting a tow from a team car.

“Aru has struck a huge blow in terms of the overall standings, one hopes he can go all the way,” purred Landa. Two-time Tour de France champion Froome, who had started the day in eighth place overall, 1min 18sec adrift of the lead, was dropped in the mountains and his hopes of winning a second Grand Tour this year look to be dead in the water.

The 30-year-old Kenyan-born Sky rider started the day badly when he fell, and things got steadily worse as he lost contact with the leading group 40km from the finish and lost about seven minutes by the time he crossed the line. Froome is now 15th overall, 7min 30sec behind Aru.

His team-mate and loyal lieutenant Geraint Thomas stayed with him throughout his travails and revealed to broadcaster Eurosport afterwards that all was not well.

“Froomey obviously had a heavy crash and he said his foot was quite bad,” said Thomas. “He said his legs were OK but on the special category climb he started to suffer when Astana really lit it up. He got dropped then, and I was about to get dropped myself anyway so I sat up and waited for him. He seemed to come round on the last climb but we just had to keep going. Froomey always keeps fighting and that’s what we did.”

The other two cyclists who filled the podium spots at the Tour de France also struggled, Alejandro Valverde coming in over a minute in arrears of Aru and Nairo Quintana, the runner-up to Froome in France, losing over three minutes. Landa, 25, was part of the initial breakaway group and went clear on his own on the final first-category climb of the Queen stage of the race.

Earlier in the stage, Portuguese rider Sergio Paulinho was taken to hospital after being knocked over, according to his team Tinkoff-Saxo, by a motorbike carrying a TV cameraman, just as had happened to his team-mate Peter Sagan in the eighth stage. Paulinho had to have 17 stitches inserted in a leg wound.

A furious team owner, Russian oligarch Oleg Tinkov, threatened to pull the team out of the race.

Final kilometers of Stage 11

Results Stage 11:
1. Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 4:34:54
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:22
3. Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky 0:01:40
4. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:57
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:59
6. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:10
7. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:59
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin
10. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:02

General Classification:
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 43:12:19
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:27
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:30
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:28
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:29
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:52
7. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:54
8. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:58
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:07
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN – Qhubeka 0:04:15