Vuelta a España 2014: Chris Froome vows to hit back after time-trial setback
The Team Sky rider lost 53 seconds to race leader and home favourite Alberto Contador
Chris Froome put a brave face on his time-trial setback in the Vuelta a España, where he finished a disappointing 10th and dropped to fifth overall, 1min 18sec down on new race leader Alberto Contador.
Widely touted as a pre-stage favourite, the Team Sky rider never seemed comfortable on the technical medium-distance 36km time-trial course, his shoulders rocking on the narrow, twisting approach to the main challenge of the day, the Alto de Moncayo climb.
On the long, fast descent off the climb to the wine-growing village of Borja in rural north-eastern Spain, Froome looked to be more in his element. He at least avoided the same misfortune that befell Nairo Quintana of Colombia. The former race leader skidded into some crash barriers and pitched headlong on to the tarmac, although fortunately he was able to continue in the race.
But while Contador soared to fourth on the stage behind world time-trial champion Tony Martin and into the overall lead, Froome – like Contador, battling to salvage a season after he crashed out of the Tour de France injured – lost 1:32 to the German and 53 seconds to the Spaniard.
Froome’s defeat contrasted starkly with three years ago, when the Kenyan-born Briton took the lead of the Vuelta in an equivalent mid-race time trial at Salamanca, a triumph that represented his first major breakthrough in Grand Tours. Instead, he admitted that over-estimating his strength early on had cost him dear.
“It was a very tough day for me, to be honest I started off way too fast,” Froome said afterwards. “I think for the first 10 to 15 minutes I got a bit carried away and chased it a little bit, and I paid for the price for that all the way up that climb and never came back from the red.”
His determination to continue battling for the overall win, though, remains undiminished. “I’m going to keep fighting every day, push through to the end, I’m going to give it my all, and I’ve got a great team to support me here.
“I lost a lot of time today, but I’m still fifth overall and only just over a minute down. I’ve already felt through the first week I’m getting race rhythm back in the legs and hopefully that’s going to pull me into the last week in good form. I’m going to fight all the way through. I’m not going to throw the towel in just because I’m a minute down.”
So far in the Vuelta, Froome has certainly seemed stronger on the climbs than he did in today’s time trial, turning in a searing performance at the Alto de la Zubia ascent last week to finish second. And on Wednesday, at San Miguel de Aralar, a 10km final climb in Navarre, the Sky leader may yet turn the tables again.
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