• Fabio Aru and Nairo Quintana seen here at the 2015 Vuelta will again be rivals at the 2016 Tour de France (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Fabio Aru and the Astana team put on a masterclass on how to work someone over in the mountains on Stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana, and the gamble paid off in the biggest way possible.
Cycling Central

13 Sep 2015 - 7:12 AM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2015 - 8:06 AM

What a difference a day makes.

At he end of Stage 19, Fabio Aru was being bundled away immediately after the finish by the Astana team, reportedly furious and potentially about to be given a time penalty or even kicked out of the race for seemingly taking a push from teammate Luis Leon Sanchez in the closing kilometres of the stage.

At the end of Stage 20, Aru was all smiles as he pulled on the Vuelta's red leader's jersey, overall victory all but assured (barring incident on the run-in to Madrid tomorrow).

Aru's day started well when the race jury ruled that no sanction should apply over the pushing accusations, when a clearer camera angle showed that the reported handsling was little more than an reassuring tap on the shoulder from Sanchez.

Astana also played the final mountain stage to perfection, launching a small test attack early on the penultimate climb of the stage, followed by a surge that only Rafal Majka and Nairo Quintana could follow. The rest of the podium contenders soon hurried to play catch-up after realising their podium positions could be at risk, leaving Dumoulin isolated.

Dumoulin: the Vuelta was one day too long
Tom Dumoulin's dreams of becoming the first Dutchman to win a Grand Tour in 35 years went up in smoke as the Giant-Alpecin rider finally cracked on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Espana.

Quintana attacked the group at about 19km to go, provoking a chase from Majka and a last-minute surge from Rodriguez to preserve the Katusha rider's second place.

However, Aru's eventual victory was never in doubt, with Aru and teammate Sanchez crossing the line together, 3min 40sec ahead of Dumoulin.

“My teammates and my team were motivated even with the hit we took yesterday,” Aru told journalists. “We were motivated. I thought that today there’d be ground to attack, especially on the penultimate climb.”

“My teammates were exceptional today. Some got into the break, others worked to raise the tempo, Mikel Landa did an amazing job," he added. "This victory is thanks to my teammates, not me. It was very stressful, but I am so happy to have this leader’s jersey. We knew the penultimate climb was very difficult.

"This is the most beautiful win of my career, and Dumoulin has demonstrated that he is a rider for grand tours in the future.”

Majka makes the podium as Rodriguez sprints to second
Rafal Majka and Joaquim Rodriguez were among the big winners on the final mountain stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
Vuelta a España: Aru cracks Dumoulin as Plaza wins Stage 20
Fabio Aru is set to win the Vuelta a España after Tom Dumoulin cracked on the penultimate climb on Stage 20 - sliding off the podium entirely.