The last 12km of the race featured a gruelling category one climb. As the race arrived at this point the top five riders in general classification were at the front. It was now or never for each to improve their position. Each rider wanted to improve their position but going to the front risked doing the work for those they were seeking to overhaul. Fifth placed Fabio Aru did not seem in a position to attack and third placed, Alejandro Valverde, is not a noted mountain top finisher. Fourth placed Joaquim Rodriguez was the first to mount a serious attack. However, he was hauled back and passed. Then it was the turn of second placed Chris Froome to make his bid for glory. Froome attacked and race leader Alberto Contador tucked in behind him. Then as the finish approached, Contador left Froome in his wake and went on to win the stage (and effectively the Vuelta).
The top 5 in general classification finished in that order on the climb to Puerto de Ancares. It was fascinating to see the rider decide when they needed to attack the position of the man in front of them on general classification. And, it was equally fascinating to see the rider being attacked see off the challenge before attempting a similar strategy against the rider ahead of him.
An interesting aside on the incentives faced by cyclists arose from the Stage-20 commentary provided by Sean Kelly on EuroSport. Kelly and his co-commentator were discussing how cyclists tend to get back on their bikes as quickly as possible after a fall. I was surprised that Kelly compared this approach to that of footballers. It is slightly disappointing to find people from one sport complaining about those in another sport. I was disappointed that one of the sports people I most admire was taking such a line. My faith was restored in Kelly's very next sentence when he pointed out that cyclists get back on their bikes because there is little to be gained by staying on the ground. It was clear that Kelly was not complaining about footballers. Instead he was pointing out how both cyclists and footballer react to the incentives they face.