Froome fools us again
We’re used to seeing Chris Froome (Team Sky) slide down the bunch on an uphill finish only to surge back up to the front towards the summit, however when he was dropped with a whole 9km left to climb of the Lagos de Covadonga at the end of stage 10 of the Vuelta a España, we feared the worst.
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With Sky teammates Peter Kennaugh and Leopold Konig – both of whom are also carrying hopes of a high GC finish having got themselves into the top 15 overall – also drifting back to help pace him, and with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) looking particularly explosive at the front of the race, it seemed as though this time Froome’s GC hopes might be in jeopardy.
The gap swelled out to over a minute, but just when it seemed as though Froome might actually be struggling, he stopped using his teammates and began to set a much faster pace, eating into the lead of riders who had dropped him and ultimately finishing just 25 seconds down on Quintana – a deficit smaller than the 33 seconds he lost two days ago.
It may have been that Froome was eager not to make the same mistake he made that day, when he attempted to attack the Colombian only to be counter-attacked and rapidly lose lots of time.
Movistar have this race under control
The first week could hardly have gone any better for Movistar – with 10 stages done and dusted, they go into the rest day with Nairo Quintana in first overall and Alejandro Valverde second.
Quintana seems to comfortably have the beating of his major rivals Froome and Contador, while Valverde is performing well beyond what could have been expected for a rider competing in his third Grand Tour of the season.
Admittedly, a week characterised by steep uphill finishes could hardly have been better suited to the Spanish team, but the way they have dominated the summit finishes by setting a tempo at the front with their plethora of climbing super-domestiques has been reminiscent of Team Sky at its best.
They’ll be wary of the stages to come – especially the long individual time-trial in the final week – but for now Movistar look almost invincible.
Contador overestimates himself
Two days ago on La Camperona, it was Froome who made the error of attempting to ride wheel to wheel with Quintana. Today, Contador made the similar mistake of attacking the on-form Colombian.
Although Quintana didn’t simply counter-attack and drop his opponent immediately as he did to Froome, the pace he set when riding alongside Contador was evidently too much for the Spaniard to cope with, as made clear when he was dropped and went into the red following an acceleration near the summit.
After surprising himself two days ago by finishing as the second strongest GC rider on La Camperona, Contador appeared to overestimate his legs today, and paid the consequences by losing over a minute to Quintana and being passed by several other rivals.
Now nearly three minutes down on GC, he’s probably going to have to pull off one of his ambitious ambushes if he’s to win this race overall.
A plucky effort from the breakaway
Having only been granted a handful of minutes by the Movistar-led bunch, the main break of stage 10 was one of the few at this year’s Vuelta to have been controlled and not allow to stay up the road to contest the stage win.
Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) mad a good fist of it, however. Having dragged his way back up to Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), who had made the first major move on the final climb, Gesink struck out on his own.
The Dutchman put in a gutsy performance, especially considering his under-par form so far in this race, and was only caught by the rampaging Quintana with 2.5km left to ride.
Arguably even more impressive was Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), who, despite not having the climbing pedigree of Gesink, managed to mix it up with the top climbers when they caught up to the break, and hung for fourth place. He was awarded the mountains jersey for his efforts.
Simon Yates is having a great ride
There is no classification for the best young rider at the Vuelta a España, but if there were Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) would be leading it.
After another impressive ride, in which he helped a struggling Esteban Chaves get up the Covadonga, Yates moves up to eighth overall on the general classification – 1-41 ahead of Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) who would have been his closest contender in a young riders classification.
As the first long, proper mountain of this year’s Vuelta today was a crucial day in testing the riders’ form, and Yates passed with flying colours, even looking arguably stronger than team leader Chaves, who he finished only seconds behind despite having set the pace for much of the mountain.
A top four finish to match his twin’s ride at the Tour might be a bit of a stretch, but right now the young Briton is looking very good for at least a top 10.