Home-country cyclist Alejandro Valverde won the ninth stage of the Tour of Spain on Sunday, while his countryman Isidro Nozal extended his overall lead.
Riding for the Kelme team, Valverde took 4 hours, 48 minutes, 36 seconds to complete the 174.8 kilometer ride from Vielha to Port d'Envalira in Andorra that many experts consider to be the steepest and toughest stage of the race.
Valverde finished just one second ahead of Italy's Dario Frigo, and three seconds ahead of a small pack of riders. Nozal, who finished seventh, cemented his top overall position for the sixth day in a row, and widened his lead against ONCE teammate Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano to one minute and 45 seconds. Manuel Beltran of Spain is third, one minute and 58 seconds back.
Meanwhile, French rider Richard Virenque, a six time winner of the King of the Mountains title in the Tour de France, was expelled from the race for being towed by a team car. The 21-stage, 3,161-kilometer Tour ends September 28 in Madrid.