ALTO CAMPOO, Spain (AP) Alessandro de Marchi surged upward into the mountain fog to win the 14th stage of the Spanish Vuelta, while fellow Italian Fabio Aru fought successfully to keep the leader’s red jersey on Saturday.
De Marchi pulled away from four other escapees near the end to win the 215-kilometer (113-mile) ride – the longest of the three-week Grand Tour – in 5 hours, 43 minutes, 12 seconds.
”Incredible! I wouldn’t have believed it at the start that I would perform so well,” De Marchi said.
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The race had been ”hard” for his BMC team because of Tejay Van Garderen withdrawing last weekend after a crash, De Marchi said, and BMC lost another rider on Saturday. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sanchez abandoned the stage due to pain in his toes after losing a nail Friday.
The grueling stage started in Vitoria and ended at the special-category Fuente del Chivo summit. With visibility reduced to meters by the thick fog, Aru recovered from a late attack by Nairo Quintana and Joaquin Rodriguez to cross the line just behind the title rivals.
Aru’s overall lead was reduced by one second to 26 seconds ahead of Rodriguez with mountain stages coming over the next two days.
Aru’s Astana teammates took turns setting a hard pace up the final 18-kilometer (11-mile) ascent before launching him on an attack toward the chilly Fuente del Chivo peak. But Quintana stayed pegged to his wheel, Rodriguez recovered to pass him, and Aru became the pursuer.
Aru managed to close on Rodriguez just before crossing the finish line to limit the damage.
Quintana is still 3 minutes behind, but Rodriguez and the Colombian could attack again on the summit finishes over the next two days before a rest day. That will be followed by a crucial individual time trial on stage 17.
Sunday’s stage is a 175.8-kilometer (110.9-mile) ride starting in Comillas and fishing at the Sotres summit.