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Ireland's Dan Martin up to sixth at the Vuelta

Meanwhile Alberto Contador tightened his grip on the race.

Dan Martin's impressive Vuelta continues.
Dan Martin's impressive Vuelta continues.
Image: Press Association Images

AFTER FINISHING SEVENTH on today’s 16th stage of the Vuelta a España, Ireland’s Dan Martin has moved up to 6th overall in the final grand tour of 2014.

The Garmin Sharp rider lost another 72 seconds on race leader Alberto Contador and is unlikely to break into the top five being some three and four minutes down on Fabio Aru and Joaquin Rodriguez in fifth and fourth respectively.

However, it is still a remarkable achievement for Martin considering his Giro d’Italia ended with a brokencollar bone on stage one just tour months ago.

Spaniard Contador moved a huge step closer to his third Vuelta victory as he saw off Britain’s Chris Froome to win the gruelling 152.2km stage from San Martin del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona.

Contador’s first stage victory of the race in a time of 4:53:35 took his overall lead to 96 seconds over compatriot Alejandro Valverde with Froome a further three seconds adrift as he just failed to move into second in the general classification.

Italian Alessandro de Marchi claimed third on the day, which was also marred by the disqualifications of Italy’s Gianluca Brambilla and Russian Ivan Rovny for fighting just after the midway point of the stage.

“Today was a very good day for us,” said a delighted Contador, who only decided to compete in the race a week before it began after suffering a broken shinbone in the Tour de France in July.

“I had the power I needed, I managed to keep going with the pace imposed by Froome and when I saw my opportunity I took advantage of it.”

The landmark stage of the race, including four category one climbs, was expected to play a decisive role in who is crowned the winner in Santiago de Compostela on Sunday.

Froome eventually made a move with just four kilometres of the long climb to the finish line.

Contador was able to follow the 2013 Tour de France winner and the two managed to distance themselves from the chasing Valverde and Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez.

Froome, though, couldn’t live with Contador’s acceleration in the final 500m as he strengthened his grip on the race with just five stages remaining.

“When Froome has a change of pace it is difficult to follow him but I managed to do it and I knew Valverde and Purito were behind so it could be an important day for me,” added Contador.

“What gives me more reassurance is that I am recovering well, I have the power in my legs despite the blow I suffered and now we have a rest day ahead of us that we need to make the most of.”

After Tuesday’s rest day, the race returns with a flat 190.7km ride from Ortigueira to A Coruna on Wednesday.

Additional reporting from AFP.

Two riders had a digging match during today’s stage of the Vuelta

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Steve O'Rourke

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