Vuelta a España: La Covatilla reshapes the GC
Enric Mas and Laurens De Plus are both in the general classification top 20 after nine stages.
Puerto del Pico (15.3, 5.5%), Alto de Gredos (10.1km, 3.7%), Puerto de Peña Negra (12.6km, 4.7%) and Alto de la Covatilla (9.8km, 7.1%) were the four classified climbs sprinkled over the course of the 200.8km stage 9, one of the hardest of the whole race. Several riders pulled away in the opening meters and the peloton were content to let them go, as the gap escalated quickly to ten minutes before they reached the penultimate ascent of the day.
The eleven escapees stopped working together and began attacking each other before the final climb, on a cobbled hill through a village, where Ben King (Dimension Data) punched his way in the lead, opening a 1:30 gap which despite being narrowed on the last hurdle of the stage proved to be enough to see him take the win ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).
Behind, the bunch waited for the final four kilometers before blowing apart on the tough double-digit gradients of La Covatilla, which was returning in the race for the first time since 2011. Distanced before the flamme rouge after several teams put in an unforgiving tempo at the front, both Enric Mas and Laurens De Plus remained composed and rode at their own pace, without going into the red and coming home not far behind the GC contenders, thus retaining their places in the top 20, where the Spaniard lies in 12th, with his teammate just seven places down.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images