With nine stages to go, the Spaniard is fourth in the overall standings, just three seconds off the podium.
Observatorio Astronomico de Calar Alto, the tough first-category climb in the Almeria province, played host to a Vuelta a España stage finish for the third time this century. The stage has long been earmarked by the general classification contenders as an important one, all riders being aware that the long ascent could play a huge role in the outcome of the race by the time the peloton will reach Madrid.
Stage 8 winner Julian Alaphilippe was the first rider to instigate a move once the flag was down, but the peloton wasn't willing to let the Frenchman go and soon reeled him in. A flurry of attacks continued, but it was only after 50 kilometers that the bunch relented and allowed 14 men to snap the elastic and establish a maximum lead of 5:30. Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels got infiltrated in that move which maintained a comfortable gap until the Alto de Velefique, where the group split and the gap began to come down.
In the meantime, the peloton got seriously trimmed, only 25 riders making the cut and arriving at the bottom of Calar Alto (15.5km, 5.9%). Then, four kilometers into the stage, David De La Cruz – who was well-positioned in that group – was forced to stop by the roadside due to a broken front derailleur; the Spaniard got a new bike from the Quick-Step Floors car and remounted, but the bad luck that struck him meant he had to make up a 30-second deficit which only grew once Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) attacked off the front.
Despite this setback, David continued to push on and put in a valiant effort, jumping from group to group and showing amazing fighting spirit, grit and determination, as he clawed back time and made sure of finishing the stage in 10th position, a little over a minute behind winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana); the result, a truly remarkable one, not only that kept David in contention for a solid GC at his home Grand Tour, but also helped him move up two places in the rankings.
"It's a really pity what happened today, but there's nothing I can do now to change things. Luck always plays an important role in cycling, and unfortunately, today it wasn't on my side. That bike change cost me important seconds and a better result, but I don't want to think of this anymore. I'm happy that I had good legs and could stay with the other favourites. Hopefully, it will be only onwards and upwards in the next week and a half for me", said David De La Cruz after the first summit finish of this edition, at the end of which he finds himself in fourth place, a handful of seconds outside the podium.
Matteo Trentin – the only rider so far to power to two stage victories at this edition – held onto his green jersey, which Quick-Step Floors' Italian will display for the eighth time in less than two weeks, on Thursday, when the race will resume with stage 12, between Motril and Antequera Los Dolmenes (160.1 kilometers).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele