He suddenly jumped away as a climb eased and sprinted to the banner. Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) was up the road but Froome thought he was sprinting for a four-second time bonus. He only realised he'd made a mistake as he went under the banner and was told by his team.
"I was told over the radio that the sprint was coming and I saw a banner around a corner and thought it was a sneaky place. Everyone else looked a little relaxed and so I thought I'd go for it, while I can," he told said with a slightly embarrassed smile.
"I took off thinking it was the bonus but Cobo was ready for it too. I had a red shadow today and he never left me alone."
The intermediate sprint had been moved to closer to the finish of the stage and the real sprint was contested a few kilometres after Froome's mistaken attack. However, he missed out on the time bonuses, with Barredo taking the six seconds, late attacker Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) taking four seconds and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) picked up two seconds.
Difficult to dislodge Cobo in Madrid
Froome remains 13 seconds down on Cobo in the general classification of the Vuelta. There are still two intermediate sprints during the final circuits of the centre of Madrid, where 6, 4 and 2 bonus seconds are awarded, with 20, 12 and 8 seconds award to the first three riders on the stage. Froome knows it will be almost impossible to dislodge Cobo on the final parade stage.
"There's honestly not much more we can do. He's ridden a fantastic race," he said sportingly. "We've kept the pressure on him all the time but he's defended his lead well. I don’t think any of us are at fault. It's just the way bike racing goes. The team a fantastic job.
"I doubt much is going to happen tomorrow in Madrid," he conceded. "We might look at the bonus sprints but I don’t think it's realistic to be honest. Now the most important thing is to stay safe, get there and secure second and third on the podium."