Astana rider Fabio Aru won the Vuelta a Espana after retaking the lead with a decisive performance on the penultimate stage. The Italian started and finished the week in the red jersey but it was far from plain sailing. He was overtaken by Joaquim Rodriguez on Stage 16 and distanced by Tom Dumoulin on Stage 17’s time trial. But the Astana rallied on Stage 20 to give Aru the first Grand Tour victory of his career.

Aru began the second last stage of the race six seconds down on behind Dumoulin on General Classification (GC), but the standings would be radically redrawn on a dramatic day of racing in the Sierras of Madrid.

Although Lampre-Merida rider Ruben Plaza won the stage following a stunning 112 kilometre solo effort, it was without a doubt Aru’s day.

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The Astana took control of the race for GC on the slopes of Puerto de Morcuera and with Dumoulin isolated, he was left behind by the rest of the race favourites. The young Dutch rider ended the day in sixth place overall 4:36 behind Aru. The Italian had an advantage of 1:17 over Rodriguez with Rafal Majka in third another 12 seconds further back.

Dumoulin looked to have the race won after taking the red jersey for the third time with a dominant time trial performance on Stage 17. The Dutchman had started the day 1.51 behind Rodriguez after several days of hanging on in the mountains. He set a time of 46:01 over the 38.7km course in Burgos to win the stage and overhaul the GC favourites. In the end it was not enough for Dumoulin and it was harsh that he missed out on a podium finish, despite announcing his talent to the #Cycling world by riding a brilliant and brave race, which saw him take the race lead three times.

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The end of the time trial saw the red jersey change hands for the second times in as many stages. Two days earlier Rodriguez had snatched it from Aru by attacking inside the final kilometre of Stage 16, as the route went up some viciously steep slopes that touched 30% in places. Aru battled back to limit his losses but eventually came home two seconds behind the Catalan, and lost his red jersey by a scant second due to a time bonus.

Stage 16 was also notable for the return of Frank Schleck to the winner’s podium as he claimed his first victory in over four years. The Luxembourg rider was part of the day’s breakaway. The battle for GC places behind allowed him to build up a maximum advantage of 21 minutes and although the pack reeled him back in he hung on for a stage win.

The win on the final stage went to Dumoulin’s teammate John Degenkolb, who won the sprint finish on the flat, ceremonial stage that allowed Aru an untroubled evening on the finishing circuit in Madrid to seal final overall victory.