David De La Cruz leads the Vuelta a España after maiden pro win
For the fourth time this season, an Etixx – Quick-Step rider sits at the top of a Grand Tour's general classification.
Three days after renewing his contract with the team, David De La Cruz put in a masterful display on stage 9 of Vuelta a España (Cistierna – Alto del Naranco, 164.5 kilometers), soloing to the win and the red jersey, after being part of the 11-man escape which animated the day. Riding his home race for the third time, the Spaniard infiltrated himself in the big group that slipped away soon after the start and laid down an important workload on the front of the group, helping it take its lead north of five minutes, despite various skirmishes of other riders, who tried several moves.
At one point during the stage, with around 30 kilometers remaining, attacks flew from the front group and the advantage began to come down; David didn't let himself get drawn into these games and patiently bided his time, deciding to go on the final descent together with Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling). Together, they built a gap of 30 seconds on their former breakaway companions, which they extended on Alto del Naranco (5.7 kilometers, 6.1% average gradient).
Despite doing some long pulls at the front, David De La Cruz still had enough left in the legs to attack inside the last kilometer, speeding towards the finish and notching up his maiden pro victory. The 86th home rider to win a stage in the Vuelta a España since the inception of the race, the 27-year-old was over the moon after producing the most astonishing performance of his career, one which netted him a success he'll never forget.
"After being injured and sidelined due to health problems many times in the past two years, this victory repays me for all the hard work and the team for the confidence showed. The key moment was when I was with Devenyns and found out that we have a consistent gap on the guys chasing us. Then I knew I can do it."
It's incredible to ride in a race against the best in the world – riders like Froome, Contador, Valverde or Quintana – and take this beautiful win
"Alto del Naranco is a fantastic climb, which I know very well from the Vuelta a Asturias, and to be on top here gives me a great and unique feeling", said David after the dust had settled and he celebrated the result with his teammates, who came behind the podium to congratulate him as soon as they completed the stage.
Following his triumph on one of Spain's most iconic ascents, David De La Cruz garnered more than one trip to the podium. As he finished three minutes ahead of the peloton – from which Gianluca Brambilla attacked in the closing meters – the Spaniard moved to the top of the overall standings and will now start stage 10 to Lagos de Covadonga in the red jersey, thus becoming the fourth Etixx – Quick-Step rider to lead a Grand Tour this year, after Marcel Kittel, Gianluca Brambilla and Bob Jungels all topped the Giro d'Italia GC.
"I can't believe I'm the leader of the Vuelta a España! At the start of the day, when I went in the break, I was thinking of taking the win. During the stage, I wasn't aware I can seize the jersey, it was only in the final two kilometers that I got this info from the team car. To lead my home race is the icing on the cake and I'll savor every moment. I want to thank to my all my teammates and to sport director Jan Schaffrath, who kept me informed on what was happening during the stage and motivated me. The confidence of the team and of the guys was crucial and says a lot about how united and determined this team is."
Etixx – Quick-Step concluded the first week of the Vuelta a España with three distinctive jerseys (red, green and white), three stage victories and as leader of the teams classification.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele