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Historic day for Irish cycling as Aqua Blue win stage at La Vuelta

Stefan Denifl held off Alberto Contador on the summit finish at Los Machucos.

Source: La Vuelta/YouTube

AQUA BLUE SPORT made Irish cycling history as Stefan Denifl outclimbed some of the world’s best riders to win Wednesday’s stage at the Vuelta à Espana.

The Irish team, founded by Cork-born businessman Rick Delaney, were narrowly denied a stage win on their Grand Tour debut when Adam Blythe finished third on stage two.

But Austria’s Denifl went one better on the summit finish at Los Machucos, holding off the chase of Alberto Contador to win by 28 seconds.

Race leader Chris Froome retains the red jersey, but allowed Vincenzo Nibali — who finished fourth behind Denifl — to cut his lead to 1:16 with four stages remaining.

Denifl, who won the Tour of Austria earlier this year, was part of a six-man breakaway who rode away to open up a lead of over seven minutes on the peloton in the early part of the race.

The gap was as big as nine minutes at one point before the main bunch drew closer on the approach to the intimidating final climb.

Denifl, 29, had the most left in the legs over the final kilometres, shaking off Dani Moreno and then keeping Contador at arm’s length to deliver an unprecedented day for Irish cycling and the country’s first Pro Contintental team.

“I had super, super legs today,” Denifl said.

“I waited all La Vuelta for that day. I paced myself until today and I went all in.

It’s just amazing for the team, for Aqua Blue. It’s our first Grand Tour and we win a stage… I’m over the moon.

He added: “Now I’ve won a stage at La Vuelta, it’s amazing. It’s the best day of my cycling life.”

Nicolas Roche finished 22nd on the stage, 2:32 behind Denifl.

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