• Fabio Aru crosses the finish line at the end of Stage 15 of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana (AAP)Source: AAP
Vuelta a España race leader Fabio Aru has denied that his form is flagging after losing time to Joaquim Rodriguez and a surging Rafal Majka.
Cycling Central

7 Sep 2015 - 8:34 AM 

Fabio Aru (Astana) has hit back at speculation that his form is on the wane after appearing visibly fatigued on the last two stages of the Vuelta a España.

Aru lost time to Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez on Stage 15, with the veteran rider now just one second behind the Italian. Aru was clearly annoyed at the time loss when quizzed by press after the stage finish.

“It’s not a positive stage because I lost time on Rodriguez. I’m not pleased about that,” he said.

However, Aru rebutted accusations that his legs were lacking in the finale of the stage.

“I didn’t lack anything," he told journalists. "It was a great stage for Purito, the final steep part suited him, I couldn’t help losing that time.”

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Joaquim Rodriguez opened up the jets in the final kilometre of the Alto de Sotres to pull within a single second of Astana's Fabio Aru on the Vuelta a España general classification.

Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka also gained time on Aru, displacing Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) on the final podium spot. Majka thrived on the steep slopes: like the other climbers in the race, he will be keen to build a significant buffer over time trial specialist Dumoulin ahead of Stage 17's race against the clock.

“This was not an easy finale but I think that I can be satisfied with finishing second after Rodriguez," Majka said.

"This climb suited me better than yesterday’s and I was able to take time on all of my rivals except Rodriguez. I was suffering a little bit on the first climb but in the end I could feel that I had the power to climb well.

"I think that tomorrow’s stage will be even harder than today’s. The climb in the end will be super crazy and we need to wait and see how my legs are.”

Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman indicated that the race could blow apart on Stage 16. The 185km stage is the third in a trifecta of mountain stages, and comes before the final rest day.

"Tomorrow will be brutal with the last climb and I think that the time differences will be more extensive what we saw today," Hoffman said. "We will have to wait and see how the other teams play their cards and then we hope that Rafal has the same legs tomorrow."