Sept 14, 2015 – Italy’s Fabio Aru claimed his first Grand Tour victory by winning the 70th edition of Spain’s Vuelta a España on Sunday ahead of home favorite Joaquim Rodriguez and Poland’s Rafal Majka. Here, AFP sports looks at five key moments from a controversial three-week race:
1. Nibali Disqualified
Nibali sent home in disgrace The race had been billed as a battle between the top four finishers in this year’s Tour de France, but Vincenzo Nibali didn’t even make it beyond the first weekend as he was disqualified for being towed by his Astana car on stage two. The Italian insinuated the punishment had been heavy handed, but his absence worked out in the end for Astana as it allowed Aru to step into the leader’s role.
2. Terrifying Stage 8
Savage Saturday leaves big names bruised Stage eight on the second Saturday saw a number of top riders forced to withdraw after a spate of crashes on a dangerous downhill stretch. Belgium’s Kris Boeckmans was placed in an induced coma for a week after crashing in the same incident that saw Dan Martin and Tejay van Garderen’s tours ended early. Peter Sagan, who had already won a stage and was comfortably leading the points classification, was also badly injured after being hit by an auxiliary motorcycle that drew a furious response from the Slovakian and his Saxo-Tinkoff team.
3. Froome Crashes Into Wall
Froome’s quest ended by foot fracture Arguably the hardest stage ever designed at the Vuelta saw the peloton face four category one and an hors category climb through Andorra on stage 11. However, it was the downhill that once again proved the most dangerous for Tour de France winner Chris Froome as he crashed into a wall and fractured the navicular in his foot. Froome bravely battled on till the end of the stage, but his attempt to become only the third man to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year was ended.
4. Dumoulin Demolishes Stage 17 ITT
Dumoulin destroys the field in time trial After a series of punishing mountain top finishes, Aru and Rodriguez expressed their concern at not having built up a big enough gap over time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin. Those fears were realized when a sensational performance from the Dutchman saw him win the time trial by more than a minute to propel him into the overall lead with just four stages to go.
5. Astana Break Down Dumoulin
Astana backed Aru breaks Dumoulin’s resistance Dumoulin held onto the leader’s red jersey until the penultimate stage when Aru, flanked by Astana teammates, finally made a decisive break that he couldn’t live with. In the end the 24-year-old was left without even a spot on the podium to show for his efforts as the four minutes he lost on the leaders left him down in sixth overall.