Tour de France champion Chris Froome couldn't match the pace of his rivals in Wednesday's mountain finale
However, the 2015 Tour de France champion looked off the pace of some of his rivals and lost time to general classification hopefuls Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC) and stage winner Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) in the finale to La Molina.
The Spanish stage race is Froome’s first major outing in Europe this season, and he said that he’s still finding his form after a winter of racing in Australia and then a training block in South Africa.
“The team were super strong all day but unfortunately we didn’t finish the job off in the final,” Froome said on Team Sky’s website. “This is my first race back at WorldTour level and I’m still finding my legs.”
Sky’s Wout Poels put in an early attack on the final ascent but was soon reeled back in. Froome then matched some of the subsequent attacks, but it was Quintana’s move that he seemed to be unable to react to.
When Martin’s stage-winning attack splintered the lead group, Froome found himself riding with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) as the other favourites moved ahead.
Froome was keen not to dismiss his, or the team’s, overall aspirations in the race after this first mountain test.
“Tomorrow is a new day though and we’ve still got a lot to race for with myself, Geraint [Thomas] and Wout [Poels] still in contention.
“It’s been great being back with the guys again. There’s a great atmosphere in this team and hopefully we can build on that. We’ve still got a few days to go and we want to play a part in this race.”
Today’s stage four takes the riders from Bagà to a summit finish on Port Ainé, with an ascent and descent of Port de Cantó around 60km before the finish.
Martin leads the race after his stage three victory, and sits six seconds ahead of Contador overall. Froome is in eighth place at 22 seconds and Thomas in 10th at 28 seconds. Fellow British rider Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) is in 12th spot after finishing in 10th place on Wednesday.