Tom Dumoulin took the lead in the Vuelta a Espana today after a stunning performance in the individual time trial.
Despite being placed fourth overall at the start of the day, 1m51s down on leader Joaquim Rodriguez, the Dutchman is now favourite to win the maillot rojo when the tour finishes in Madrid on Sunday.
Prior to the stage, Rodriguez, Dumoulin, Fabio Aru and Rafal Majka all stood within two minutes of each other and all retained hope of winning the overall title.
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Lacklustre performances by Rodriguez and Majka, however, combined with Dumoulin's dominance meant that they will now battle for the final podium place between themselves. Only Italian Aru was able to stay close to the Giant-Alpecin rider, losing 1m53s to him on the stage and now 3s behind him on the overall classification.
Dumoulin's success in the time trial comes as no surprise considering he took bronze in the World Championship Time Trial in 2014. At the beginning of the Vuelta a Espana, however, he was an outsider for the title and has surprised many by keeping pace with many of the world's top climbers across a tough parcours.
Aru running out of time
Only three stages remain for Aru to overturn his three second deficit to Dumoulin. Stages 18 and 20 offer opportunities to distance the Dutch rider as they contain tough climbs towards the finish line, but they are also followed by long descents where Dumoulin may be able to fight back. With such a small margin, the overall title may come down to bonus seconds won in sprints between the two riders.
Dumoulin, who rides for Dutch team Giant-Alpecin, has never come close to winning one of cycling's Grand Tours before. Fabio Aru, however, has finished on the podium of the Giro d'Italia twice and ended last year's Vuelta in 5th position overall.
This year's competition was blown wide open after the withdrawal of Chris Froome last Thursday with injury.
World Championships on the horizon
With Froome's injury ruling him out of the World Championship Time Trial competition, Britons Geraint Thomas and Stephen Cummings both staked their claim to partner Alex Dowsett in the British Cycling squad.
Cummings finished three places ahead of Thomas in 9th place, only 1m40s behind Dumoulin. He also finished a full 48s ahead of Thomas, who will be supporting Mark Cavendish's bid to win the World Championships Road Race, making him a favourite to take the second spot in the squad for the time being.
The Championships take place in Richmond, Virginia in the USA later this month.
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