Froome tore away from the pack and in the red leader’s jersey put more time into his direct rivals. He appears to have this Vuelta in hand even though two weeks and seven summit finishes remain.
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“I’m just happy to be in this position after a rough Tour de France,” Froome said.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been able to focus on the Vuelta a España, the first time that I did an altitude camp before the Vuelta. I’m really happy I did that, it’s starting to pay off.”
Much has been said about how Froome programmed his 2017 season. Ahead of the Tour, he appeared under-form and lacked victories.
“The way I structured my season with [coach] Tim Kerrison, not to be in the best shape before the Tour de France, it’s helped me stay fresher for longer. I’m really happy I did that.”
Froome trained with a select group of Sky riders who eventually formed his Vuelta squad. After placing second three times, he wanted to secure ever detail and the altitude camp in the Alps was part of it.
Froome dropped all of his rivals bar Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) today near Spain’s Costa Blanca. He gained 17 seconds on Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), who sits second overall, and others, and around a half-minute on some other rivals.
He leads the overall by 28 seconds on Chaves and 41 on Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing). After some bad days, three-time winner Contador again moved ahead and sits 17th at 3-10.
The race has only covered eight of its 21 stages, leaving Contador and others to suggest that Froome could be out to gain as much time as possible because he is worried. It could be the case that his fitness wanes in the third week or bad luck strikes.
“I’m trying to win the race, race in a way that gives me the best chance to win the overall. I’m not afraid of the third week, it’s not as if I’m worried my form is going to run out and I’m trying to gain time now,” Froome continued.
“I just feel good, so why not push on and race when I feel good? This is pro cycling and we’ve seen in the past how fast things can change. I’m going to take time where I can and keep pushing on.”
Canadian Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Chaves, Contador and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) initially followed Froome. Froome attacked again near the top of the five-kilometre climb and went solo. Contador, who will retire after this Vuelta, fired back before the summit and joined Froome.
“Alberto is not here to ride around Spain to give selfies and to sign autographs, he’s here to win,” Froome added.
“He had a tough few days in the Vuelta, lost time in Andorra, but he is certainly making up for that now. He’s extremely strong, keeps putting me under pressure, we are going to be attentive to have make sure that nothing happens like last year.”
Contador last year initiated the move 100 kilometres out on the Formigal stage that saw Froome dropped and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) ride to the eventual Vuelta victory.