Froome can’t hack the pace
The pace up the final mountain wasn’t high enough to catch the breakaway but it was enough to make Tour de France winner Chris Froome struggle.
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The Team Sky rider admitted before the race that he’s not at optimal fitness after the Tour and will be riding the Vuelta in the hope that he’s ‘still got it’, so to speak.
If stage seven is anything to go by he could struggle to win the rare Tour/Vuelta double, dropping off the back of the peloton in the final kilometres up the climb to La Alpujarra and losing over 90 seconds to the winner.
It’s only the first week of the race and Froome’s not in the rhythm he requires to win the race, but time will tell if he’s got enough in the tank to challenge over weeks two and three.
Aru takes advantage of Froome’s struggles
As Froome struggled at the back of the group, Astana’s Fabio Aru took full advantage and sprung off the front and virtually sprinted up the mountain.
The move came too late to challenge Bert-Jan Lindeman for the stage win, but he put seven seconds into his rivals to move up in the general classification to sit level with Nairo Quintana, 57 seconds back on Esteban Chaves.
Astana are relying on Aru to shine in the next two weeks, having had their name further sullied by Vincenzo Nibali’s disqualification, and should he continue to climb like this he will come very close to winning the race.
Does Chaves have any help in the mountains?
When he won stage six, Chaves didn’t really need much help from his teammates when it came to the final climb, mostly because he just went off by himself for much of it.
Now back in the red jersey the Colombian didn’t have many helpers capable of pacing him up the mountain at the end of stage seven, meaning that he had to latch onto the back of the Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo trains that powered up the hill.
Unfortunately, Orica-GreenEdge’s team isn’t designed to defend the jersey at the Vuelta, with many of their riders built for the flatter, punchier stages in the race.
Chaves could get himself a top-10 placing in the general classification at the end of the race, but he’ll have to work hard by himself to get it.
Dumoulin’s no slouch
Tom Dumoulin is not really the kind of rider who you’d expect to be able to perform well in the mountains if you were to spot him in the peloton. Nevertheless, the Dutchman muscled his large frame up the mountain surrounded by the best climbers in the peloton, giving away no time to red jersey rival Chaves.
Like we mentioned after stage five, it’s unlikely that Dumoulin will be able to keep his climbing prowess up for the full three weeks, but he’s proving he’s strong enough to do it and should he get the support in years to come he could be a force in stage races. Especially those with time trials, where Dumoulin can dominate.
The breakaway fooled the peloton
Sean Kelly called it (incorrectly) with about eight kilometres to go on the climb that the breakaway would have no chance with just three minutes separating them from the peloton.
But as the mountain went on, the gap between the two groups failed to shrink quickly enough and in the end it was up to the six escapees to play a game of cat and mouse to the end.
Lampre-Merida‘s Ilia Koshevoy made the first move but paid the price for going too early as Lindeman caught and passed him with relative ease. Then came Europcar’s Jerome Cousin, who is riding for his career as he is without a contract for next season, but the Frenchman was unseated by a bizarre crash in the final kilometres.
In the end Lindeman had enough to hold off Koshevoy, despite being held up when Cousin fell off his bike right in front of him.
Lindeman has been in three breakaways already in the opening seven stages and finally he has gotten a reward for his time out