Team Sky‘s Chris Froome says that he found himself on the back foot and had no response when the Vuelta a España exploded on Sunday afternoon in the Pyrenees due to early attacks from rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).
Contador and Quintana took turns attacking the Tour de France champion already six kilometres into the short 118.5-kilometre stage 15 into the Spanish Pyrenees. Froome found himself isolated and went backwards as the stage raced to the Aramón Formigal ski station.
“It was a tough, tough stage for us,” Froome told ITV Sport when he arrived back at Sky’s bus.
“The guys obviously did a lot of work yesterday so we weren’t as prepared as some of the other teams this morning. Obviously, being caught up there with Contador and Quintana in the early break put us on the back foot and we just never recovered. So credit to them, they rode a really smart race and they gained a lot of time on us.”
Froome marked each one of Quintana’s attacks – around five in total – when the Vuelta raced up the Col d’Aubisque climb yesterday. Today, he missed the first one and lost ground from there.
Quintana rode clear in a group of 14 that included two Movistar helpers and Contador with two of his Tinkoff helpers. He did not win the stage, that honour went to Italian Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx–Quick-Step), but finished second and gained 2-43 minutes on Froome.
“Sometimes you have to take your hat off to people and just say, ‘well done,'” Team Sky boss, David Brailsford added. “That was a great move and it paid off for Nairo and Alberto.
Froome still sits in second, but Quintana now leads by 3-37 minutes going into the final week. More mountain stages and, importantly for Froome, a 37-kilometre time trial appear on the menu in Spain.
“We just have to sit down and look at it and keep on going,” added Brailsford. “Sometimes in sport you take a punch in the face, turn around sit yourself down and say right, there are six days of racing left, we’re still in the same position as we were this morning and we’ll just keep on going.”