Chris Froome failed to dislodge Juan Jose Cobo from the top spot in the Vuelta a Espana on Friday’s stage when he blasted away on the Vivero climb but he and the rest of Team Sky gave it their all and the Briton remains determined to give it another try.
“Why shouldn’t I? What I have got to lose?,” Froome said at the finish.
“13 seconds [between himself and Cobo] is such a small advantage, I can’t just hand it over to him.”
In what was a textbook strategy, Wiggins drove hard on the Vivero climb before Sky team-mate Froome launched an all-out attack to which only Cobo could react.
It was confirmation yet again that Froome and Cobo are at this point the two strongest riders in the race – but not quite enough to get the Geox rider out of the number one spot.
“Bradley did it brilliantly, so did the team,” Froome said, “even if Cobo did react really well, too.”
“But I’m going to keep fighting, it’s not over yet.”
“Tomorrow’s not much, but I will go on from here.”
Chris Froome (centre) with Juan Jose Cobo (left) and Bradley Wiggins (right)
Cobo himself remains uncertain of his chances, saying that he expects Sky to attack on the road to Vitoria on Saturday.
Although the last 50 kilometres of Saturday’s stage are very straightforward, the first section is extremely hilly, and in a race as unpredictable as this one, the Spaniard is wise to be cautious.
For the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, even they now have won stages in all three Grand Tours this year, today’s win alone more than justified their budget for the entire season,
To win with local idol Igor Anton – who trains regularly on the Vivero – in front of a home crowd, alone and on the day the Tour of Spain returns to Bilbao for the first time in 33 years was a dream result for the squad.
It is worth remembering Euskaltel-Euskadi is now in its 18th year of existence but never able to race for a Grand Tour stage win before on home soil. And at the first try – they score a bullseye. You couldn’t make it up.
Anton – already the winner of the Zoncolan stage this year – could not have summed up his feelings about his fourth Vuelta stage victory more clearly: “I could retire, right here, right now, and be satisfied with my career.”
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index