In his fifth year of riding in cycling’s Grand Tours, Ben King picked up his first stage win Tuesday.
The 29-year-old from Virginia beat Nikita Stalnov by two seconds to win Stage 4 at the Vuelta a Espana in a mountaintop finish.
Michal Kwiatkowski retained the overall leader’s red jersey, but the Team Sky rider saw his lead cut in half during an eventful stage.
The first uphill finish of this year’s Vuelta provided opportunities for those with aspirations of winning the race to make their mark and, though Kwiatkowski is still out in front, Simon Yates and Alejandro Valverde both had good days to move closer to the overall leader.
Stage winner King was rewarded for being part of the early breakaway group and he had looked to be in the running to take the red jersey at one point.
Despite the peloton clawing back a gap that had risen to nearly 10 minutes, King still had a stage victory to celebrate as he edged out Stalnov.
“For me personally, I’m still in shock,” said King. “I set winning a Grand Tour stage as a goal for myself at the beginning of this year.
“It’s something I’ve really just had to keep believing, keep believing and keep having faith that I had that potential. I’ve worked so hard for this.”
Kwiatkowski had held a 14-second advantage at the beginning of the day, but Emanuel Buchmann was able to reduce that gap to seven seconds, with Yates a further three seconds back after a profitable attack with around three kilometers to go.
King was part of the nine-man group that took this stage on from the very start.
Many of his accomplices in that group faded toward the end, but King had the stamina to see off Stalnov in the closing stages and claim a memorable victory.
There was a prospect that he could have been wearing red on Wednesday, too, but a stage win is not a bad consolation prize.
This is the fourth consecutive year King has featured in Spain’s Grand Tour. His most high-profile stage win prior to Tuesday came at the 2016 Tour of California, when he prevailed in Stage 2.
STAGE 4 RESULT
1. Ben King (Dimension Data) 4:33.12
2. Nikita Stalnov (Astana)
3. Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac)
4. Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
5. Ben Gastauer (AG2R La Mondiale)
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) 13:47.19
2. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0.07
3. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +0.10
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) 46
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 33
3. Ben King (Dimension Data) 29
King of the Mountains
1. Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) 36
2. Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac) 20
3. Ben King (Dimension Data) 12
A bunch finish could be in store on a 188.7 km stage that will be more favorable for the sprinters, once a second category climb toward the end has been negotiated.
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