BARCELONA (Reuters) - Polish rider Tomasz Marczynski earned his first stage win at a grand tour by outsprinting two rivals at the finish to take an enthralling stage six of the Vuelta a Espana, as Chris Froome increased his lead in the general classification by one second.
Froome leads Esteban Chaves by 11 seconds in his bid to become the first rider in 39 years to do a double of the Tour de France and the Vuelta, as Tejay van Garderen endured a nightmare stage after a promising start.
The American rider was in the same group as Froome and a resurgent Alberto Contador when he crashed into the road with little more than 30km to go in the 204.4km hilly stage from Vila-real to Sagunt in Valencia province.
Van Garderen’s day was made even worse when he got a punctured tire in the final three kilometres and then fell off his bike again shortly after. He lost a further 20 seconds on Froome and is down to fourth from second in the general classification, 30 seconds behind the Briton, with Nicolas Roche 17 seconds ahead of him in third.
Contador produced another strong display after roaring back to life in Wednesday’s stage, following a blunt performance in the first mountain stage on Monday in Andorra due to suffering from a stomach virus. He finished alongside Froome in the third group, 26 seconds back from Marczynski.
Marczynski, 33, has been Polish champion twice as well as winning the 2015 Tour du Maroc and added a grand tour stage win to those achievements by edging compatriot Pawel Poljanski and Spaniard Enric Mas to the finish line in a three-man sprint.
“I came here really wanting to win a stage and to do it so soon is amazing,” Marczynski told reporters.
“The last ascent, we climbed really fast. We got to the final with two and then a few others came into town. Then we were all looking at each other, but I said, ‘I’m not going to let any attack go without me. If I don’t have enough strength in the final, so be it, but I’m going to give it my all’.
“Since I’d been in the breakaway all day, I had to take advantage of the opportunity. It all worked out in the end.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge