Chris Froome: This is a huge step towards securing Vuelta victory

Froome continued to prove he's the strongest of the GC contender after gaining more time on stage 11 at the Vuelta a España

Chris Froome celebrates another day in red at the 2017 Vuelta a España (Sunada)

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Chris Froome (Sky) finished twice overall three times in the Vuelta a España, but feels he made a "huge step" towards his first title in stage 11 Calar Alto summit finish.

Froome gained time on all of his 2017 Vuelta rivals. His leader’s jersey appears that much more secure after Wednesday's stage, moving from first overall at 36 seconds to 1-19 minutes.

>>> Five talking points from stage 11 of the Vuelta a España

He arrived to the press tent at 2,120 meters wrapped in black Team Sky gear to keep warm.

"I think given the time gaps today, this is definitely going to be one of the crucial stages that shaped this Vuelta a España," Froome said.

"I'm really pleased with how today went and I think this is a huge step towards securing my position and my lead at the Vuelta."

Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali on stage 11 of the Vuelta a España 2017 (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Froome discovered his Grand Tour talents when he raced the Vuelta with Bradley Wiggins in 2011 and placed second. He went on to win four Tour de France titles, but when returning to Spain he could only manage second overall.

Sky controlled the wet and cold stage 11 in Andalusia when Orica-Scott and then Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) launched offensives.

Contador went at 11.1 kilometres in the 15.5-kilometre closing climb. Nibali followed and attacked a few times off the heels of his team's work.

"The final climb, the attacks came but it was already decided to sit back a little bit and not get roped into being on the front and playing a cat-and-mouse game with the other guys who were there.

"I was happy just to sit back. They looked to gain more today, guys like Vincenzo and Alberto and Wilco Kelderman. So I sat back and left them to it," Froome added.

"I told Mikel Nieve just to go for it in the final because he's not on the general classification and I thought they wouldn't chase him for the stage win, but the race picked up again.

"He's such a professional and so consistent in it's a privilege to ride with a guy like him."

Froome distanced Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), who sat second overall at 36 seconds at the start of the rain-soaked day in Lorca.

"I was surprised with Esteban Chaves especially since Orica rode so hard today. I was waiting for the attack from Chaves today but sometimes days like this catch up on you when it's been cold all day," added Froome.

"The race changed today for sure, the GC shows the race completely opened up now. It was a very different race, for me it felt like we were in the spring Classics with this weather. It's something you don't expect at this race. The weather made the race harder with the summit finish over 2000 metres."

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