ALFACAR, Spain – Benjamin King of the United States dominated the final climb to win the fourth stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Tuesday, with overall leader Michal Kwiatkowski keeping the red jersey despite losing time.
Durango’s Sepp Kuss also showed strong form during the climb, as his Team LottoNL-Jumbo had him attack on the climb to push the pace of the peloton.
King was in control through the final meters of the 100.3-mile stage, comfortably securing the victory and becoming the first American to win a Vuelta stage since Chris Horner in 2013.
“I didn’t start believing until the last kilometer,” the 29-year-old King said. “I’m still in shock. I set winning a Grand Tour stage as a goal for myself. I’ve worked so hard for this.”
Nikita Stalnov crossed the line two seconds behind King, and Pierre Rolland was third, 13 seconds behind the winner.
King and Stalnov got away with about 6 miles to go and were joined by Rolland at the summit, but King was able to overpower them in the final meters.
“At some point I realized the front group would fight for the stage but I wasn’t convinced I’d be the strongest,” said King, of team Dimension Data. “I was totally jacked up, I could feel the cramps but I stayed strong in the head and got it. It’s incredible.”
Kuss finished in 27th on Tuesday’s stage. The 23-year-old from Durango was 3:52 behind the winning time of King. He played perfect team tactics and showed he will be a force in only his first Grand Tour event. Kuss is now 61st overall in the general classification, 12:05 off of the lead.
Kwiatkowski, leading Team Sky in the absence of 2017 Vuelta champion Chris Froome, had his 14-second lead cut in half, with Emanuel Buchmann moving to second place after a ninth-place finish on Tuesday.
“Today’s scenario was perfect for me,” Kwiatkowski said. “It wasn’t my interest to chase the break, but to maintain a good position and save some strength and that’s what I did.”
Simon Yates, who was eighth on Tuesday, jumped to third overall, 10 seconds off the lead, while local favorite Alejandro Valverde dropped from second to fourth, 12 seconds off the pace.
Wednesday’s fifth stage will take riders back to the coast through a mountainous route of nearly 190 kilometers (120 miles) from Granada to the municipality of Roquetas de Mar.
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.