ARRATE, Spain — Diego Rosa of Italy completed an impressive solo ride to win a mountainous fifth stage of the Tour of Basque Country on Friday as Colombian Sergio Henao took over the lead.
Astana rider Rosa separated from an early breakaway group and stayed well in front of the pack for over 100 kilometers (62 miles) while crossing the route’s eight summits in steady rain and low temperatures. He finished in 4 hours, 19 minutes, 19 seconds.
The 27-year-old Italian savored his second career victory by stopping just before the finish of the 159-kilometer (98.7-mile) ride and lifting up his bike before he stepped over the line.
“My legs gave me the answers I was searching for, and I didn’t look back until I’ve seen the arch of the finish” Rosa said.
Henao of Sky and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff crossed next, more than three minutes later, closely followed by defending champion Joaquim Rodriguez and Thibaut Pinot.
“I’ve fought really hard every day to take the leader’s jersey and I finally have it,” said Henao, who finished second overall to Rodriguez in last year’s race. “When me and Alberto (Contador) went to the front we both wanted to gain time ahead of tomorrow’s time trial and we worked well together.”
With only 12 seconds separating Henao and Rodriguez in fourth place, the four front-runners have a shot at winning the race in northern Spain on Saturday’s sixth and final stage, a 16.5-kilometer (10.25-mile) time trial around Eibar.
Samuel Sanchez was sixth on Friday, ahead of Nairo Quintana and Lawson Craddock.
Overnight leader Wilco Kelderman struggled on the final climb and fell to eighth place overall, trailing Henao by more than a minute.
“We gained time against some riders but the race remains still open,” Contador said. “We have to make sure our legs work well tomorrow and we’ll see what result we get.”
Rosa’s teammate and Astana leader Fabio Aru withdrew from the race after he fell and hurt his wrist. Besides the Spanish Vuelta champion, 2012 Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal was also among riders who quit during the demanding stage.
Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press