Highly-rated Astana youngster solos to take the victory, while Froome produces plucky display to finish with rivals.

Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) claimed a memorable mountain-top victory as he broke away from his GC rivals with a kilometre to go to win stage 11 of the Vuelta a Espana at Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar this afternoon.

Aru added this stage victory to one from the Giro earlier in the year, and had a winning margin of just six seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquin Rodriquez (Katusha) race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Rigoberto Uran (Omega-Pharma – Quick-Step) across the line.

Contador now leads the race by 20 seconds from Valverde, with Uran 1-08 back and Froome 1-21 behind. However, the day’s big loser was former race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who crashed 20km into the 153.4km stage. Having previously fallen in yesterday’s time trial, the Colombian withdrew from the race with a broken shoulder blade.

Stage eight victor Winner Anancona (Lampre-Merida) also lost time to his GC rivals as he struggled to stay in contact with them in the final kilometers

The GC contenders have now, seemingly, been reduced to Contador, Valverde, Rodriguez, Uran and Froome, all of whom were locked in battle up the final nine kilometers climb of San Miguel de Aralar.

Aru attacked in the final kilometre, frequently checking to see if those behind. would chase, and was allowed to solo to the stage victory in arm’s length of them.

It looked as if Froome would lose yet more significant time as he was dropped from the Team Sky-led bunch with little under seven kilometers remaining. It appeared that he had been dropped for good throughout the climb’s ascent, but impressively managed to rejoin the group of GC contenders coming into the finish.

Whether or not he was bluffing weakness to his rivals is an answer only he will know, but Froome looked uncomfortable for the majority of the ascent. Such displays will not help him in his quest to become the first British winner of the Vuelta, particularly since there are three more challenging stages before the next rest day.

Results
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage 11: Pamplona  to Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana 153.4km in 3-41-04
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0-06
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky all at st.
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 0-13
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 0-15
8. Dan Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at st.
9. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis at 0-16
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 0-21

Overall classification after stage 11
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0-20
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-Quick Step at 1-08
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-20
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-35
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing at 1-52
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 2-13
8. Winner Anacona (Col) Lampre-Merida at 2-22
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 2-38
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale at 3-51

Alejandro Valverde on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain

Alejandro Valverde on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain

Chris Froome on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain

Chris Froome on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain

Alberto Contador on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain

Alberto Contador on stage eleven of the 2014 Tour of Spain