Tour of Spain: Froome moves up to second and closes gap on Contador

 

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A searing attack by Sky’s Chris Froome on yesterday’s stage of the Tour of Spain moved the Briton into second place overall and allowed him to close the gap on race leader Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo.

In the densely wooded, steadily rising, ascent of Monte Castrove in the remote north-western region of Galicia, Froome pounded away from a small group of favourites with around 2.7km to go.

He then quickly closed in on early attacker Fabio Aru of Italy, who then sat behind the Sky rider as Froome powered towards the finish. Aru easily dropped the Briton for the win, but Froome none the less both netted second place and a valuable time bonus, as well as a 12-second advantage on race leader Contador.

As a result, with three days remaining, Froome has overtaken 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde to move into second overall – the same finishing position he claimed in the Tour of Spain back in 2011.

Contador, 1 min 19 sec ahead, still looks relatively secure in the lead, but the fact the Froome has regained ground on his archrival bodes well for their final duel  in tomorrow’s mountain showdown on Ancares.

“There had been many attempts [by other riders to break away] until I found the right moment to attack,” Froome said afterwards. “This is another second place but I’ve moved up on the general classification. Given the climb today, I’m very happy with that result.”

Contador said “I thought I’d stay with Alejandro [Valverde] because he was defending his second place overall. I thought he had more responsibility [to work to chase down Froome] than me.

“I knew the time differences would be minimal because the last part of the climb wasn’t that hard, and independently of whatever the time loss has been, I hope it’s not a problem.”

This has been a real rollercoaster of a race for Froome, who after crashing out of the Tour de France injured, none the less started the Vuelta strongly in the first mountain top finish of La Zubia. However, he then lost time in the second race summit, at Valdelinares.

A poor mid-race time trial result – where Contador moved into the lead – was an even greater setback for Froome’s overall hopes. But since then, albeit with some wobbly moments like the Lakes of Covadonga ascent last Sunday, Froome has slowly but surely been raising his game.

Whilst today’s stage along the Galician coastline to Cangas do Morrazo looks made for breakaways by non-favourites, Froome’s best opportunity to go on the attack will come on the 12.7km ascent to Ancares.

The Briton knows the ascent from the 2012 Vuelta where he finished fifth on the stage – 33 seconds behind Contador. This time he will be hoping for a very different result.

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