Alberto Contador Velasco (Tinkoff & Spain) pulled on the red jersey in Borja, raised his bouquet to his adoring fans then offered his clenched right fist up to his chest.
The man has a big heart in there, for sure – all that was missing was Kiss pumping on the PA, ‘Back in the New York Groove,’ the line which goes; ‘this place was meant for me!’
Joy for the man from Pinto but pain for the race leader from the other side of the world as Columbia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar) chose exactly the wrong place to faff with his shoes, took his eye off the ball and stacked hard against the crash barriers on a right hander.
He lost more than three minutes to Contador to make overall victory a difficult – but not impossible – proposition.
And not a good day for Sky; Britain’s Chris Froome was expected to challenge for the win today and sail into red – instead he dropped 40-plus seconds on Contador and must hope he can challenge in the mountains.
I’ve had to bet money on anyone falling off today, it would have been Froome – he’s just not at one with his machine and his ‘thrupenny bit’ cornering makes one wince.
Meanwhile Germany’s Tony Martin – if he starts a chrono behind you then it’s like driving on the autobahn, best keep to the right – reinforced his right to wear that pristine white speedsuit and have the coolest of paint jobs on his QuickStep Specialized as he won yet another joust with Old Father Time.
In the process giving the Emperor’s thumbs down to the man who’s happy to have ‘Spartacus’ – like Lance said, I think I’ll start calling myself ‘Big Tex’ – written on his machine, Fabian Cancellara who it must be said ran the German to 18 seconds at the line for third.
But splitting them, at 15 seconds was another of the QuickStep Mean Machine, Rigoberto Uran – his ride should be no surprise given he won the Giro time test this year and started life as Junior Time Trial Champion of Colombia.
Uran’s ride hiked him up to third on GC @ 59 seconds on the man who took fourth spot in the test – Contador.
As others’ nerves showed on the start ramp, it was ‘another day at the office’ for the Spaniard who for a skinny little climber has beautiful form and oneness with his machine.
Fifth spot went to an inspired home boy Sammy Sanchez (BMC) – needing a contract does that to a man – who’s stellar first half to the top of the climb built a solid foundation for a good performance.
His Aussie BMC team mate Cadel Evans was just one second behind; I keep writing that man off but he keeps bouncing back – but we’ll wait for the high sierra before we send off our Cadel Fan Club application form.
Sky automaton Vasili Kiryienka was seventh – remember that the man has been a Worlds medallist for Belorus in the TT – with eighth spot going to a very impressive Alejandro Valverde (Movistar & Spain), turning the 11 into the finish with real power to give him second on GC, 27 seconds behind Contador.
Ninth spot belonged to big, strong Trek Kiwi pursuiter Jesse Sergent with Froome in 10th spot.
Biggest surprise of the day was the strong ride by Stage Nine victor – notice how I avoided saying ‘winner’ – Lampre’s Colombiano, Winner Anacona who now sits fourth on GC between Uran in third and Froome and in fifth spot.
As we said of Stage Nine; ‘dull this Vuelta is not.’
Stage Eleven starts in Pamplona of bulls, Hemingway and Indurain fame and finishes 151 K later at the thousand year old monastery of San Miguel de Aralar atop a cat. 1 ascent on concrete pavement.
Let’s hope it doesn’t rain…
Ve con Dios.