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Philip Deignan Vuelta diary: 'I led Chris out for the sprint to the wrong line'

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Forced to ride for time on yesterday's stage, Chris Froome (right) saw Fabio Aru take stage glory but he moved up to second overall at the Vuelta. JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

Forced to ride for time on yesterday's stage, Chris Froome (right) saw Fabio Aru take stage glory but he moved up to second overall at the Vuelta. JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Forced to ride for time on yesterday's stage, Chris Froome (right) saw Fabio Aru take stage glory but he moved up to second overall at the Vuelta. JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

I tried to get up the road a few times this morning but once again we had a really fast start to the stage and covered over 50km in the first hour of racing.

With the pace so high, it took 48km for three guys, including King of the Mountains Luis Leon Sanchez of Caja Rural to get clear while the Movistar squad of second overall Alejandro Valverde started riding straight away.

Most of the action came towards the end of today's stage where we had the 7km ascent of second-category Monte Castovo en Meis to tackle twice in the last 27km.

Although we didn't really plan to take the race on so early my Sky squad arrived at the front just before we hit the climb for the first time.

With Sanchez just about hanging on to take the points over the top the first time around, we led the peloton up the climb just 25 seconds behind him.

A few lower-placed guys attacked us on the way up, but with our goal simply to get Chris onto the climb, second time around, in a good position, we just ignored them and the tempo we set eventually saw them all come back to us before the top anyway.

Cresting the climb, we had a team carer at the side of the road handing bottles up to us as we flew by. But with five of us coming at him at pace right behind each other, it was physically impossible for him to hand us all a bottle within the two- or three-second time-frame he had.

Something had to give and, unfortunately, I dropped my bottle on the ground at the summit.

My Italian team-mate Dario Cataldo handed me a spare one though on the descent before he and 'Kosta' Suitsov took over the pace setting on the front.

In the valley, with 9km to go and 2km before the final climb started, there was an intermediate sprint with a four-second time bonus on offer for the winner.

Surged

As Chris had started the day just three seconds behind second-placed Valverde and we were up the front anyway, we decided to go for it and I led Chris out a few hundred metres before it. While Valverde didn't contest the sprint himself, afraid the effort would cost him on the climb, three of his Movistar team-mates surged up the right-hand side of the road at the same time.

Unfortunately for all of us, there were two banners across the road within a few yards of each other. Chris put in a great sprint to beat all the Movistar guys to the first one, which turned out to be the 9km to go banner and upon realising his mistake sprinted again but could only manage second and a two-second time bonus behind Gorka Izagirre at the actual sprint banner.

Still, it could have been worse. The other Movistar guys could have continued their sprint and took all of the time bonuses but much to the annoyance of Izagirre they sat up after the first banner thinking the sprint was over.

After seeing Chris sprint so hard for the time bonuses, the other GC leaders tried to put him under pressure as soon as we began climbing, in the hope that the sprint would have deadened his legs.

I rode onto the climb in front of Chris but within a few metres, race leader Alberto Contador, Valverde and fourth-placed Joaquin Rodriguez had all jumped clear.

But the trio stalled as they took one of the hairpins wide with 6km to go, so I rode up the steeper inside section of the bend and back onto the front of the group in an effort to keep the pace steady. A kilometre later, though, an injection of pace by Rodriguez's Katusha team-mate Daniele Moreno disintegrated the group and put me out the back door, leaving just our Spanish climber Mikel Nieve with Chris.

An attack by fifth-placed Italian Fabio Aru with 4km to go forced Rodriguez to chase, bringing Contador, Valverde and Chris off the front of the group, although catching the young Giro d'Italia stage winner proved more difficult than anyone expected. Chris attacked 2.5km from the top however and rode across to Aru while sporadic efforts by the other three were quickly followed by stalling as each one looked at the other to make the next move.

With Aru in his wheel, Chris continued to drive towards the line and had opened a 13-second gap on the others by the top.

Unfortunately, in his quest to gain time over his rivals, Chris didn't have the luxury of taking it easy in the last few metres to give himself a chance to contest the stage win so Aru easily outsprinted him for the victory.

Second place on the stage though earned Chris a six-second time bonus and he is now up to second overall, with a 13-second cushion over Valverde and a minute and 19 seconds deficit to Contador.

La Vuelta, live, Eurosport, 4.0

Irish Independent