Only an individual time trial is separating the 27-year-old from his best career result at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
David De La Cruz rode with his legs and heart on Friday afternoon, when the Vuelta al Pais Vasco took the peloton to its iconic Santuario de Arrate finish, on a stage which created significant gaps in the general classification, as the climbers came to the fore and tried to make the most out of the course which included six categorized ascents.
A huge break took off ahead of the first classified ascent of the day, Pagatzako, but despite the group counting 18 riders, they weren't allowed to take the gap over the two-minute barrier. Quick-Step Floors took the reins in the peloton, chasing the riders up front, before Movistar and Orica-Scott decided to step in and push a hard tempo which led to many riders being dropped before the last two climbs.
At the bottom of Usartzako, only some 30-odd riders were still left in the bunch, and as soon as the road began to rise, attacks started coming in. Yellow jersey David De La Cruz was in control until the closing thee kilometers, when the race hit the steepest sector of the climb. Leader of the race following his superb stage victory in San Sebastian two days ago, De La Cruz showed again not only the class, but also the big heart he possesses, as he continued to fight and try to stay in touch on the punishing gradients.
Despite the numerous attacks, no one managed to escape so a small group contested the win on Santuario de Arrate, where Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) entered first in the last and always decisive corner, dipping down to the line ahead of Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), a success which brought him also the yellow jersey.
Quick-Step Floors' David De La Cruz wasn't far off and concluded the stage in the top 10, impressing once again with his persistence and never-say-die attitude, which have already earned him many plaudits and several top results, from the stage he won at Vuelta a España last season to the two ne notched this spring at Paris-Nice and Pais Vasco.
Saturday's stage, a 27.7km-long individual time trial starting and finishing in Eibar, will close the World Tour race, and David – who lies ninth in the general classification – will try to conclude it on a high note.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele