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ERMITA DE ALBA, Spain (AP) — Joaquim Rodriguez took over the lead of the Spanish Vuelta after a grueling 16th stage won by Frank Schleck of Luxembourg in the northern mountains on Monday.
Schleck shed fellow escapee Rodolfo Torres on the final of seven climbs before finishing atop the special-category peak at Ermita de Alba in 5 hours, 49 minutes, 56 seconds.
"I had forgotten about the general classification and winning this stage makes it worth it," said the 35-year-old Schleck, who has two career stage wins at the Tour de France.
Rodriguez also attacked on the last uphill push of the 185-kilometer (114.9-mile) stage to turn a one-second deficit into a one-second lead over Italian Fabio Aru, who ceded him the red leader's jersey.
"The pace was horrendous and that left me with doubts until I could get some air on the hardest part of the climb and with the little I had left I went for it," Rodriguez said.
Tom Dumoulin, the Dutch time-trial specialist, stuck with the climbers for a third straight day and could shoot for the red leader's jersey in the only individual time trial of the three-week race on Wednesday. Tuesday is a rest day.
"After Wednesday's time trial we will know a bit more about my chances," Dumoulin said. "Even if my time trial is really good, there will be three hard days to go."
Polish rider Rafal Majka also remained in contention in third place at 1 minute, 35 seconds back. Dumoulin only dropped behind Rodriguez and the small group of the hardiest riders over the last kilometer, falling to 1 minute, 51 seconds behind.
Despite taking the lead, Rodriguez stuck with his prediction that Dumoulin would take the red jersey away from him after the time trial.
"It's very tough because he looks good, loose, better than yesterday," Rodriguez said about Dumoulin. "And surely after the rest day he will be concentrated on having a great time trial. For me to win the Vuelta, he would have to slip up and I would have to have a perfect day."
The Grand Tour ends in Madrid on Sunday.