LAGOS DE COVADONGA, Spain (AP) Przemyslaw Niemiec of Poland won the mountainous 15th stage of the Spanish Vuelta, while Alberto Contador kept the overall lead for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday.
Niemiec, riding for Lampre Merida, won the 152-kilometer (94-mile) ride starting in Oviedo and finishing at the Lagos de Covadonga special-category peak in 4 hours, 11 minutes, 9 seconds.
The final ascent led to several attacks among the leading pack of Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez, but resulted in only minor changes at the top of the overall standings.
Valverde, who finished second along with Rodriguez five seconds behind Niemiec, chipped Contador’s lead down to 31 seconds heading into Monday’s stage – a 160.5-kilometer (99.7-mile) ride from San Martin del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona featuring five category-one climbs.
”The legs felt well today, but tomorrow’s stage is tremendous, hellish,” said Valverde. ”It will be really hard, and I just hope that strength stays with us.”
Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez remained 1 minute, 20 seconds behind.
The 21-stage race ends at Santiago de Compostela on Sept. 14.