Spanish rider Jesus Herrada of Cofidis team celebrates winning the sixth stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday. Photo: Javier Lizon/EPA

ARES DEL MAESTRAT, Spain – Jesus Herrada rode to victory on stage six of the Vuelta a Espana, as Dylan Teuns claimed the leader’s jersey after finishing second.

The 199km hilly stage from Mora de Rubielos to Ares del Maestrat featured four climbs, and culminated at the summit of the Puerto de Ares in Castellon, where Herrada strode away from Teuns with 150 metres remaining.

Riding into red was not a bad consolation prize for the Belgian, who started the day four minutes and 43 seconds down on red jersey wearer Miguel Angel Lopez.

“I started to realise during the stage it was possible to get the jersey,” he said after claiming his first-ever grand tour leader’s jersey.

“It was a goal for me during this Vuelta, and I was able to do it.

“I knew it was possible, and that’s why yesterday I was disappointed not to be in the breakaway, but I kept going on the climb in order not to lose too much time. That was the plan.

“I attacked with four kilometres to go, I know this kind of three to four-minute climb, it’s my speciality and I went full gas with the hope nobody could stay on my wheel.

“I gave everything for the jersey and the stage victory.

“But I just didn’t have the punch, and one guy was stronger and smarter than me.”

There was a big crash in the main peloton just past the halfway mark, with riders from multiple teams hitting the deck, leading to several withdrawals.

Fifth-placed Nicolas Roche, a former race leader, and sixth-placed Rigoberto Uran of EF Education First both abandoned after the pile-up – as did Uran’s teammate Hugh Carthy and Victor de la Parte of CCC.

Things went from bad to worse for EF as Tejay van Garderen, who was part of the breakaway, came off the road on a descent just before the final climb.

The team confirmed on social media he was able to continue in the race; however, he finished the stage last, 24 minutes 45 seconds down on Herrada.

Friday sees the riders return to the mountains as they ride 183 kilometres from Onda to Mas de la Costa, where the stage finishes at the summit of the punishing first category Alto Mas de la Costa, which has sections of up to 16% gradient.

Reuters