With one day left until the finish in Madrid, the Spaniard is on course for his best ever result in a Grand Tour.
Five classified climbs, more than 3000 meters of vertical meters and a fast and hectic race right from the beginning, all these were the ingredients of the final mountain stage of the Vuelta a España, an exciting one that draw the curtain on the general classification battle after three fierce weeks. David De La Cruz, 9th in the overall standings at the start of the day, passed this important test, putting in a gargantuan effort and displaying incredible persistence, and got rewarded at the end of the stage with a significant leap in the GC.
Stage 20 of the Spanish Grand Tour (Benidorm – Alto de Aitana, 193.2 kilometers) had several subplots, from the fight for victory and the one for the top 10 to the battle between Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), who were set to duel for the red jersey. If the win went into the bag of Pierre Latour (AG2R), who outsprinted Darwin Atapuma (BMC), the two big contenders couldn't be separated at the end of the stage, which means the Colombian will go into the final day with a comfortable cushion over his opponent.
David De La Cruz climbed with the elite group on Alto de Aitana, an impressive feat taking into account that it was the first time in his career that we went up the 21-km long ascent which many are comparing to France's Mont Ventoux. After the top men began attacking and counterattacking, David didn't panic, as he knew that all he had to do in order to defend his place in the rankings was to ride a steady pace which would allow him to lose as less time as possible.
Not only that the 27-year-old managed to do that, but he also gained two places in the general classification, climbing to 7th, and is now very close of getting his best ever result in a Grand Tour. Seventh at his third participation in the Vuelta a España, at an edition which will go down as one of the toughest in history, is a result David will never forget, especially as it propels him into a new dimension and proves that he has what it takes to be a contender in the future stage races he'll do with the team.
"Such a hard day this was, a real day of suffering, but I knew I had to through this in order to achieve my goal."
On the last ascent it was a question of not panicking and finding the rhythm that suited me the best.
"I didn't went over my limit, I stayed focused and now I can enjoy this fantastic result", said David De La Cruz, the third Etixx – Quick-Step rider to make his way into the top 10 of a Grand Tour this season, after Bob Jungels (6th in the Giro d'Italia) and Dan Martin (9th at the Tour de France).
An elated David elaborated on the targets he had at the start of the race and what it means to finish a Grand Tour in the top 10 and win a stage in the process, after three weeks in which he showed huge determination and remarkable consistency: "When I came to the Vuelta, I was thinking of getting a victory. To conclude the race in the top 10 was a dream for me, but after Alto del Naranco – which is a moment I'll always remember – I began thinking and believing in my GC prospects. I fought hard for this, was helped by a fantastic team, and to be in the top 10 riders here after winning a stage and wearing the red jersey gives me great joy and extra motivation for the future. I want to enjoy this moment and continue to work hard in order to make other important steps and become an even better rider."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele