Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome loses time in the Spanish mountains

Team Sky leader finished 1min 3sec behind stage winner Bert-Jan Lindeman

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Tour de France champion Chris Froome suffered a blow in his bid to win the Vuelta a España title on Friday's seventh stage to La Alpujarra.

The Team Sky leader finished 1min 3sec behind stage winner Bert-Jan Lindeman of Lotto-Jumbo on the first real mountain test of the Tour of Spain.

The 30-year-old Froome fell to 1min 22sec behind Orica-GreenEdge’s Esteban Chaves, who retained the race leader’s red jersey. Chaves was sixth on the stage as Lindeman won ahead of Ilia Koshevoy of Lampre-Merida.

Froome’s team-mate  Nicolas Roche was 10th,  36sec behind, and sits fourth overall.

Froome and BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen lost contact in the final two kilometres of the 191km (119-mile) stage from the city of Jodar in southern Spain.

Froome conceded 27sec to the Chaves group by the stage finish. Fabio Aru of Astana was the main beneficiary on the day, accelerating out of the group of general classification contenders and finishing third, seven seconds ahead of his rivals.

Chaves leads Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin by 10sec, with Irishman Dan Martin of Cannondale-Garmin, whose move to Etixx-QuickStep was announced yeon Friday, third overall, 33sec behind.

“The arrival of Dan Martin is an important moment for the team,” Etixx-QuickStep chief executive Patrick Lefevere said before Friday’s stage. “He’s a guy who was able in the past to win one-day races, but also stage races. He has also been a GC [general classification] contender at grand tours during his career.

“He is at the peak of his career and we are excited to see what he can do with an Etixx-QuickStep jersey on his back for the next two years.”

Martin said: “I’m really excited to join the team, which has been a point of reference in cycling for years.

“I hope to be able to take the next step in my career with Etixx-QuickStep.”

Mark Cavendish is contracted to Etixx-QuickStep until the end of 2015, but there is no news on whether the 26-time Tour de France stage winner will be staying, suggesting that a departure is likely. The British sprinter has been linked with rival teams MTN-Qhubeka and Trek.