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Vuelta Stage 20: Fabio Aru poised to win maiden Grand Tour

Tom Dumoulin dropped on penultimate climb of race; Ruben Plaza takes the stage after big solo break

Fabio Aru is poised to win the Vuelta a Espana after seizing the overall lead back from Tom Dumoulin on today’s penultimate stage thanks to a strong performance from his Astana team.

The stage itself was won by Lampre-Merida’s Ruben Plaza, who attacked from a big escape group of around 40 riders with more than 100 kilometres left.

Giant-Shimano’s Dumoulin, imperious in Wednesday’s individual time trial when he took the red jersey for the third time in the race, was just 6 seconds ahead of Aru this morning.

But with four Category 1 climbs figuring on today’s 186 kilometre stage from San Lorenzo de El Escorial ahead of a downhill run to the finish in Cercedilla, the Dutch rider’s advantage over the Sardinian never seemed likely to be enough.

So it proved as Aru dropped him on the last but one of those ascents, and Dumoulin fell to sixth on General Classification, while Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez goes second with Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka third.

Aru, who was runner-up to Alberto Contador at May’s Giro d’Italia, just needs to safely complete tomorrow’s processional stage into Madrid to take the first Grand Tour win of his career.

It comes at the same age, 25, that his team mate Vincenzo Nibali – along with Contador the only man currently racing to have won all three Grand Tours – was when he won the first of those in Spain in 2010.

Nibali started this year's race but was disqualified just two days in after video showed him accepting a tow from a team car as he tried to rejoin the front group after a crash.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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