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Nicholas Roche moves up a place while Froome maintains Vuelta lead

Poland’s Tomasz Marczynski claimed stage six.

Nicholas Roche (file pic).
Nicholas Roche (file pic).
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

POLAND’S TOMASZ MARCZYNSKI claimed stage six of the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday, as Chris Froome withstood a day of five categorised climbs and counter-attacks to maintain the overall lead.

Marczynski edged out compatriot Pawel Poljanski and Spaniard Enric Mas on the line to claim the 204.4km stage from Vila Real to Sagunto in 4hrs 47mins 02secs.

Froome finished eighth, alongside most of the general classification favourites 26 seconds back.

However, the Briton extended his lead by one second to 11 seconds as Esteban Chaves leapt into second following a nightmare stage for Tejay van Garderen.

The American suffered two crashes and a puncture as he lost 17 seconds on the race leaders’ group to fall to fourth overall.

A huge early breakaway group of 37 riders was kept in check by the pace set by Froome’s Sky teammates in the peloton to prevent Luis Leon Sanchez taking the leader’s red jersey.

“That’s the hardest day of the Vuelta so far,” said Froome.

“It didn’t stop all day, the attacks and for us having Sanchez in front we had to pull really hard and keep the break really close.

“The team was fantastic today and I want to thank my teammates that I’m still in red today. It was a tough stage and a lot of people spent a lot of energy.”

It wasn’t until the fifth and final climb up the Puerto del Garbi that the race favourites began to fight it out as Alberto Contador attacked and was followed by Froome and Van Garderen.

As Contador and Froome briefly opened up a 15-second gap on their rivals, Van Garderen suffered his first crash of the day.

The chasing group containing Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and Chaves neutralised that advantage on the descent to the finish line.

Up front Marczynski, Poljanski and Mas were the only three remaining from the breakaway and fought it out in a sprint finish for the stage win.

“I came here very motivated, I thought I could achieve something and today was the day,” said Marczynski after the biggest win of his career.

“It was a very tough stage, a big breakaway. We went up the last climb very quickly.

“I said I was going to give it my all and it went perfectly.”

The drama wasn’t over for Van Garderen as he then suffered a puncture and in his desperation to get back to the peloton hit the ground again upon breaking as he entered a roundabout too quickly.

He did at least minimise the damage to fall just 30 seconds behind Froome overall.

Ireland’s Nicholas Roche took advantage of his BMC teammate’s misfortune to move up to third just 13 seconds back on the four-time Tour de France winner.

France’s Romain Bardet, who finished third behind Froome at the Tour de France last month, fell well off the pace as he lost nearly seven minutes on the day to fall to 31st in the overall standings.

Friday’s seventh stage contains another three categorised climbs on the 207km from Lliria to Cuenca.

© – AFP, 2017

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