EL BARRACO, Spain (AP)Rafal Majka took the lead at the first of four climbs and held on for an impressive win in the 15th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday, with Odd Christian Eiking keeping the overall lead.
Majka went to the front with less than 90 kilometers (56 miles) to go and stayed in control during the rest of the challenging 197.5-kilometer (122.7-mile) stage between Navalmoral de la Mata and El Barraco. He crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 51 minutes, 36 seconds – 1:27 ahead of Steven Kruijswijk.
It was the first Vuelta stage victory since 2017 for Majka, a Polish rider from UAE Team Emirates.
”It’s special,” he said. ”Sometimes you try, and it’s not easy to go for the break. But today I tried from the start to the end, I didn’t wait for anybody. I wanted to win the stage. Specially, I wanted to do it for my father, who passed away, for my two kids and also for the great team that UAE is. I’m so happy. I had a bad start of the season, and it was not easy for me and for my family.”
Eiking, who has held the leader’s red jersey since the 10th stage, finished almost three minutes behind Majka, along with the rest of the top contenders in the general classification, including two-time defending Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic.
”I was relieved in the end,” Eiking said. ”It was a really hard day, really long, but I have to say my team did a really good race. Without them, I might not have the red jersey today. It was a pretty tough finish, and once we passed the top, I knew I was pretty safe.”
Adam Yates finished fourth on Sunday to gain 15 seconds on the top contenders.
Riders have their second rest day of the three-week race on Monday. They face a stage that will favor the sprinters on Tuesday, a 180-kilometer (111.8-mile) route from Laredo to Santa Cruz de Bezana in northern Spain.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports