Alberto Contador inched closer to a third Vuelta a Espana victory after finishing with the key contenders as Ryder Hesjedal claimed the 14th stage.
By
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) won the stage after passing Oliver Zaugg (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the final 100 metres. Third place went to Movistar's Imanol Erviti.

"The chance to fight in the general classification went out the window early on, but I knew i was in good physical condition and I had to keep fighting," Hesjedal said.

"I thought I had a really good shot on stage seven but unfortunately I crashed there, so I went all in today and it is an incredible feeling to get the win."

Tinkoff-Saxo's Contador finished 12th with an increased overall lead on second placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) but will have to remain wary of the big mover on the stage, Chris Froome (Sky).

Froome was the best of the contenders after a fierce battle in the final two kilometres, finishing seven seconds ahead of Contador while moving up to third on the general classification.

The assault produced one big casualty, with Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), placed third before the stage, losing time and position to his rivals.

The 200.8km stage was defined by three categorised climbs, the Collada de la Hoz, Puerto de San Glorio and finale on the 8.3km long La Camperona with its 7.5 per cent average gradient.

The major break of the day involved an initial 23 riders, including Hesjedal, Zaugg, Erviti, Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) and Caja Rural pair Luis Leon Sanchez and David Arroyo.

The stage hummed along until the 21km long category one Puerto de San Glorio climb when the break split, with Sanchez and Arroyo hitting the front.

Sanchez crested first to claim the major points and mountains jersey as a reduced group of chasers reattached themselves.

The descent and valley stretch brought the peloton closer to the break with the time gap reduced to 5min 18sec and only 45km and La Camperona ahead, as Hansen worked to keep the pace high.

The stage turned in the break's favour when the chase switched off with 30km to go, allowing the time gap to inch up over six minutes.

The break and peloton then got down to business from the base of La Camperona with Hansen continuing to drive the pace at the front as Team Sky led the peloton in chase.

With 3km to go and on the steepest part of the finale Hansen was done for the day, leaving the the remains of the break to decide the victory.

Zaugg made the first move but it was Hesjedal who produced a winning surge in the final 100 metres to take the win.

As an exhausted Hesjedal was crossing the finish line, a major battle among the contenders had Valverde attacking, Contador responding and Froome counter attacking in a thrilling finale to the stage.

Froome proved the strongest and may have gained and advantage psychologically, but with two big stages to come the final podium places remain undecided.

"It was incredible, the climb seemed interminable especially in the last 100 metres," said Contador.

"I am happy of course with how I've performed today. It is true Froome and Rodriguez gained a little bit of time on me, but against the rest of my rivals I gained time, especially against Alejandro so I have to be happy."

Sunday's 15th stage sees another demanding 12.2km climb to the finish of the 152.2km ride from Oviedo to Lagos de Covadonga.

SBS will broadcast eight live stages of the Vuelta a Espana, in addition to daily highlights.

Live Coverage for Stage 15 will begin on SBS and online at 0005 AEST Monday.

Stage 14: 200.8km, Santander to La Camperona-Valle de Sabero
1 Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin Sharp 5hr 18min 10sec
2 Oliver Zaugg (SUI) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:10
3 Imanol Erviti (ESP) Movistar 0:00:30
4 Alexandr Kolobnev (RUS) Katusha 0:00:39
5 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka 0:00:42
6 Bart De Clercq (BEL) Lotto-Belisol 0:00:52
7 Romain Sicard (FRA) Europcar 0:01:44
8 David Arroyo (ESP) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:02:02
9 Carlos Verona (ESP) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:15
10 Chris Froome (GBR) Sky 0:02:36

General classification
1 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 54hr 20min 16sec
2 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 0:00:42
3 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:01:13
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha 0:01:29
5 Rigoberto Uran (COL) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:07
6 Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana 0:02:15
7 Robert Gesink (NED) Belkin 0:04:14
8 Daniel Martin (IRL) Garmin-Sharp 0:04:37
9 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Cannondale 0:04:45
10 Daniel Navarro (ESP) Cofidis 0:05:10