Just call him Ben King of the Mountains.
The American cyclist captured the second Grand Tour stage victory of his career Sunday during Stage 9 of Spain’s Vuelta a España, five days after a “dream come true” ride through the Sierra de la Alfaguara brought him his first.
King is the first American to win two stages at La Vuelta since Chris Horner won 3 and 10 in 2013, when he would go on to win the entire event.
The 29-year-old from Virginia proved himself a tenacious climber as he navigated Stage 4 on Tuesday, and confirmed it Sunday by coming out on top after the grueling 124-mile mountainous stretch winding from Talavera de la Reina to La Covatilla, capped by a six-mile summit to the finish line.
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After quickly establishing himself among the leaders’ group as riders made their way over the sun-baked terrain in 90-degree temperatures in some places, King emerged to grab the lead with 53 miles left in the course and never relinquished it. With 11 miles left, he and Spain’s Lluis Guillermo Mas Bonet held a tenuous 10-second lead over five other riders who had separated themselves from the peloton.
But Mas couldn’t hold the pace and dropped back as King extended his lead to 90 seconds, despite the late surge of Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands. By the time he reached the bottom of La Covatilla with five and a half miles to race, King had the hill to himself. He crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 30 minutes, 38 seconds, which was 48 seconds ahead of Mollema.
Following Stage 9, King was in 18th place overall. Fellow American Sepp Kuss was 38th.
Riders will have a rest day at Salamanca on Monday before resuming the course for Stage 10 Tuesday.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.