If you weren’t familiar with Chris Froome‘s style of riding, then you might have thought that the Brit was in trouble at a couple of points on the final climb to Calar Alto, firstly when Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali distanced him with 10km remaining, and then Nibali went again in the final two kilometres.
However, although distanced, Froome looked assured and comfortable on both occasions, using his team-mates to cover the first move, before pacing himself perfectly to steadily chase down Nibali before the flamme rouge.
From there Froome’s work was mostly done, having no need to chase down Miguel Angel Lopez, who had gone solo in search of a stage win.
Nibali gives it a go
If there’s one thing that can be said for Vincenzo Nibali, it’s that he’s never scared to give it a go, and will go on the attack no matter who he’s up against.
After his aborted attack on the descent from the final climb on stage 10, Nibali had his Bahrain-Merida team-mates working hard once again to try and set up a move.
Firstly he followed the acceleration of Alberto Contador, a bold move with more than 10km remaining, but his main move came in the final two kilometres as he made good use of the crosswinds on the exposed climb.
Seeing Froome isolated at the back of the group, Nibali sprung to the front and immediately opened a gap. For a few seconds the move looked promising, before Froome’s pure strength prevailed, meaning the Shark will have to wait for another day.
Miguel Angel Lopez delivers on his promise
Only 23 years old, it would be harsh on Miguel Angel Lopez to say that he has been disappointing so far in this race, but the young Colombian certainly comes with such a bumper under-23 palmarès that he had been tipped to produce a decent performance in only his second Grand Tour.
However Lopez has had a tough start to the race, only getting his first top-20 result at Cumbre del Sol on Sunday, and sitting in a slightly disappoint 15th place going into stage 11.
But his performance today was excellent, putting himself in a good position at the front of the race then making use of the ceasefire between Froome and Nibali to surge clear for the stage win.
Chaves and Roche lose time
For the first half of this Vuelta a España, Esteban Chaves and Nicolas Roche have looked like two of the biggest threats to Chris Froome in the GC; the former able to match him on the climbs, and the latter picking up time through canny moves such as his attack on the final descent of stage 11.
However both men had absolute shockers on stage 12, Chaves losing 2-05 and Roche faring even worse, shelling more than four minutes to drop out of the top 10.
While Roche is now well-and-truly out of contention, Chaves’s time loss wasn’t disastrous, still leaving him third overall (with Nibali moving up to second).
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains
Unfortunately my knowledge of Spanish geography isn’t good enough to know if stage 11 took place on Spain’s famous plains, but the riders were certainly faced with heavy rain for much of the day, and didn’t seem to be enjoying it.
This was the second consecutive day of bad weather at the Vuelta, with the south of the country experiencing unseasonably inclement weather, with temperatures in single figures at the top of the finishing climb.
That puts us in the scenario that the Giro d’Italia, a race that has often been hit with snow in the past, has actually offered the best weather of any of this year’s three Grand Tours.