Sky duo extend race lead

Taaramae picks up stage victory

Last Updated: 04/09/11 7:13pm

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Wiggins: Maintained his strong climbing form to distance his rivals in a stunning display

Wiggins: Maintained his strong climbing form to distance his rivals in a stunning display

Sky Bet

Bradley Wiggins extended his lead of the Vuelta a Espana as his major rivals cracked on the tough mountaintop finish on stage 14.

Wiggins and Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome saw off a spate of early attacks before working in tandem on the punishing first category La Farrapona climb to split an elite group of favourites to pieces.

In scenes that mirrored the team work on stage nine on La Covatilla, the British duo unleashed an emphatic display that saw a number of key rivals on the general classification distanced on the steep final ramps.

As the depleted peloton went under the banner signalling the final three kilometres Froome turned the screw with a titanic effort that saw chief rivals Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) distanced.

Wiggins led the pair home in fifth with Froome perched on his team-mate's wheel in sixth after a stunning display of climbing that left a trail of destruction in their wake.

The result saw Froome regain second place overall, still seven seconds back on Wiggins, with only Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) able to live with the accelerations on the climb.

That puts the Dutchman 36 seconds back on Wiggins and up into third, while Kessiakoff and Nibali slipped back to sixth and seventh on the general classification, 1:23 and 1:25 respectively off the red jersey.

Riding for Txema

Arguably the most impressive climbing performance of the race from Team Sky was made all the more poignant on the day that marked one year since the tragic loss of team carer Txema Gonzalez.

The day was a sombre one for the team with the riders taking to the stage wearing black armbands in memory of the Spaniard who tragically lost his life during last year's event.

At the head of the race it was Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) who took the stage victory after spending the day in the breakaway, taking advantage of team tactics behind him to solo to victory on the climb by a margin of 25 seconds.

The Estonian had been working alongside David De La Fuente (Geox) only for the Spaniard to be called back in aid of team-mate Juan Jose Cobo who launched an attack on the climb, moving up to fourth overall as a result after taking second place on the stage.

De La Fuente had been part of a group of 17 riders that broke free just ahead of the 4km mark and, unlike the previous stage, were allowed to pull clear, quickly pulling out a margin a shade over eight minutes.

Climbing challenge

Team Sky were given significant help from Katusha in the pace-setting duties on the second category Puerto de la Ventana in what appeared to be a bid to set up Joaquim Rodriguez.

Business picked up on the Puerto de San Lorenzo as the peloton quickly began to split as Leopard Trek hit the front with Fabian Cancellara taking huge turns.

Daniel Moreno (Katusha) was on the attack for the second day running and quickly opened out a gap before linking up with fellow contender Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) as their respective team-mates helped pace them up the road.

Despite plenty of looking around it was largely stalemate in the group of favourites as attention turned to the daunting final climb.

Bruseghin and Moreno were finally reeled in with 6km to go while Froome resumed his climbing duties, bringing Wiggins to the head of the bunch as attacks began to fire off the front.

With only Cobo able to sustain a dig on the climb it was left to Froome and Wiggins to impose their will on an ever-thinning bunch, sounding a clear message to their rivals ahead of a second tough day of climbing on Sunday.

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