German Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) claimed the victory in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana individual time trial stage 10 on Monday.
There were surprises all round in the 2011′s race only individual test against the clock, though, as Briton Chris Froome (Sky) placed second on the stage ahead of team-mate Bradley Wiggins.
Kenyan-born Froome’s strong ride netted him the overall race lead ahead of Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) at 12 seconds and Wiggins at 20 seconds.
Sky spoilt for choice
With two riders in the top three general classification, Sky now have two very solid options to the overall.
Froome had been working hard for Wiggins in the mountains in the preceding week and there was some speculation before the stage whether Froome would take it easy to save himself for the coming mountain stages.
In the event, he didn’t hold back – and Froome himself seemed overwhelmed at the finish that he’d ridden himself into the red leader’s jersey.
Froome’s win probably wasn’t in Sky’s plan for the day. Wiggins started the stage quickly, posting the fastest time at the first intermediate split point, one second faster than Martin. By the second split at 30km, Wiggins had dropped back slightly on Martin’s time and by the finish had faded to fall short of team-mate Froome but still enough to claim third.
Rather than posing a leadership problem at Sky, Froome and Wiggins can launch a double attack on the overall classification riding together throughout the next two weeks in the mountains stages just as they did in the opening week.
Shortly after the stage finish, Wiggins said on his Twitter account: “Not my best TT of the year but after the events of the last 7 weeks got to be happy. Chris Froome was amazing and deserves all he gets.”
One thing is for certain, Sky will be looking to renew Froome’s contract for next season.
Several of the overall contenders lost a great deal of time over Froome, Wiggins and Fuglsang in the time trial, leading to an almost complete overhaul of the overall. The net effect was that the TT served to tighten things up at the top – the leading five riders are now all within a 34 seconds of each other.
Overnight leader Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) placed 25th on the stage, 3-09 behind Martin, and tumbled to seventh overall. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) – not known for his strength against the clock – finished 5-24 down on Martin and fell to 14th overall, 3-23 adrift of Froome.
Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) fared slightly better, finishing 15th and ending up fourth overall 31 seconds behind Froome.
Sunday’s Irish stage winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) paid for the previous day’s efforts, coming 99th on the stage and is now 25th overall. Fellow Irishman Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) came 36th to place 17th overall.
Cancellara finishes fourth
American Taylor Phinney (BMC) was the first rider to cross the line to lay down the early marker, and one that lasted until pre-stage favourite Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) came to the line.
So often the victor in grand tour time trials, Cancellara was not going to have his day as Martin posted a time 1-27 faster than the time trial world champion to claim the stage win. Martin now looks the favourite to relieve Cancellara of the time trial World Champion’s rainbow jersey at the end of the month in Copenhagen.
The riders can enjoy the first rest day of the race on Tuesday before tackling the 11th stage on Wednesday from Verin to Estacion de Esqui Alto de la Manzaneda, complete with a high mountain-top finish. The pure climbers will be looking to overhaul the Sky pair and reclaim some valuable seconds.
Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage 10: Salamanca to Salamanca, 47km ITT
1. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad in 55-54
2. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 59 secs
3. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 1-22
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek at 1-27
5. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing at 1-33
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 1-37
7. Tiago Machado (Por) Radioshack at 1-54
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack at 1-56
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 2-02
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at 2-06
36. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3-44
91. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 5-57
99. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 6-05
Overall classification after stage 10
1. Chris Froome (GB) Sky
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 12 secs
3. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 20 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 31 secs
5. Frederik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana at 34 secs
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at 59 secs
7. Bauke Mollema (Bel) Rabobank at 1-07
8. Juan Cobo (Spa) Geox-TMC at 1-47
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack at 2-04
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Radioshack at 2-13
17. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3-47
25. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 4-58
147. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 1-39-57
Stage winner tony Martin
Chris Froome in the race lead
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Related links
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Vuelta a Espana 2011: Stage reports
Stage nine: Martin wins as Wiggins moves further up GC
Stage eight: Rodriguez wins again to take overall lead
Stage seven: Kittel wins chaotic bunch sprint
Stage six: Sagan takes Vuelta stage win in controversial circumstances
Stage five: Rodriguez takes second win for Katusha but Chavanel holds on
Stage four: Moreno wins first mountain skirmish at Sierra Nevada
Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey
Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky
Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide
Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule
Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
ITV to show 2011 Vuelta