The Vuelta race leader and his team waited before responding to attacks with an eye on saving energy a short and mountainous stage 15 on Sunday
Froome calmly and effectively defended the race leader’s red jersey against attacks today on the Pandera finish and saved any extra energy for another day. On Sunday, the race climbs two major passes to finish at 2510 metres in the Sierra Nevada ski station.
“We were quite in control today, thinking also about tomorrow’s stage,” Froome explained outside the former military base at 1830 metres.
“It suited us to be in control with Contador and Nibali attacking. I was confident to stay with Poels and ride a normal tempo. I think that in the end that was the right decision and keep it managed for tomorrow’s stage.”
Stage 15 in the Sierra mountain range ends the first two weeks and comes on the eve of the second rest day. The Brit leads the race with 55 seconds on Grand Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 2-17 minutes on Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).
Nibali and Contador attacked around three kilometres remaining on the 12-kilometre summit finish. Froome seemingly glided to join his rivals Nibali and Contador after Poels’s work. From there, he followed. Another stage win was not in mind.
“It took a lot of energy today, we didn’t have to go too far into the red, we rode a conservative stage with tomorrow in mind,” Froome continued.
“Another stage win… They are always special in a Grand Tour, but that’s not the reason I’m here. I’m going to keep my eyes focused on the leader’s jersey. If the opportunity comes for another stage win, great, but if not, I’m happy with how things are going as well.”
The four-second time loss to Nibali was perhaps the only bitter taste to what was a sweet ride in the Sierra Sur de Jaén. In the closing straight, while Pole Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) celebrated the win from the early breakaway, Nibali shot ahead for third place and the associated bonus seconds.
Nibali began the day 59 seconds down and still in second place, ended it at 55.
“I was aware of the bonus seconds at the end, but I wasn’t too bothered to be honest,” Froome explained. “I did try to go before, but maybe went a bit early. But that’s fine that he took four seconds, I can deal with that.”