David de la Cruz wins 9th stage to take Spanish Vuelta lead


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ALTO DEL NARANCO, Spain (AP) — Spaniard David de la Cruz took the lead of the Spanish Vuelta from Nairo Quintana after completing a successful breakaway to win the mountainous ninth stage on Sunday.

The Etixx-Quick Step rider earned his first win at a grand tour after he pulled away from a small escape group, dropping runner-up Dries Devenyns with 600 meters (yards) left on the last of five ascents in the northern mountains.

The 27-year-old De la Cruz finished the route from Cistierna to the Alto del Naranco in three hours, 47 minutes, 56 seconds.

"I won the double prize!" said De la Cruz. "I had never won a stage at a major race, and to become the leader is incredible. Let's see how long I can hold onto it, but nobody is taking it away from me today."

De la Cruz entered the stage in 15th place, 2 minutes, 46 seconds behind Quintana's overnight lead. His attack from distance took him to the top of the overall classification with a 22-second advantage over Quintana.

Quintana's Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde is in third place at 41 seconds back, followed by Tour de France winner Chris Froome at :49 off the pace. The rest of the field trails by more than a minute, including three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador at over 2 minutes behind.

Quintana, Froome and the other title hopefuls will likely attack De la Cruz on Monday's 188.7-kilometer (117.2-mile) stage that starts along the Atlantic coast. Its special-category finish at the Lagos de Covadonga is considered one of the classic, and most demanding, ascents of the three-week race.

"Giving up the lead today doesn't worry us," Quintana said. "We are still feeling strong and riding well as a group. Tomorrow will be an important day at Lagos (de Covadonga)."

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