Chris Froome and Team Sky might have been defeated by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the Vuelta a España’s toughest mountain stage but the British squad’s leader nonetheless came away feeling satisfied with both his own personal gains and where he stands overall going into the third week.
Froome remains in third overall, but the result is deceptive, given how he has profited from his second place behind Contador on the Farrapona. After Sunday’s stage Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was nearly a minute ahead and the Kenyan-born Briton was tied on time with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Following the Farrapona - where Sky worked hard to blow the race apart and then Froome attacked four kilometres from the summit - Froome’s third place, at 1:39 on Contador, is now looking a lot more secure. Rodriguez has dropped to 2:29 and never looked to be in a position to follow him, whilst Valverde is now just three seconds ahead.
"Coming into this race, I was a little bit on the fresh side, having dropped out of the Tour with injuries, and I’ve been trying to build up during the race. So I’m really happy with how its gone so far, and coming into the third week like this, this is where I wanted to be," Froome told reporters afterwards.
Discussing his attack, where he blasted off and then kept up a relentlessly steady pace to the finish - Contador did not once take a turn on the front - Froome recognised that "I gave it everything I could in the final, but I couldn’t drop Alberto."
"I just pushed on the same and there’s still a week of racing ahead. At least that moves me a little bit up in the general classification but Alberto’s going to be a hard one to beat."
Froome was singularly satisfied, too, with how his team had performed in general. Peter Kennaugh - originally part of the early break, but who dropped back to help Sky’s collective effort - and Mikel Nieve looked to be the most active, although Philip Deignan was unlucky enough to puncture just before it was his ‘turn’ to up the pace, but Froome insisted it had been a great all around effort
"The team did a fantastic job today, they rode their hearts out each and every one of them... Pete, giving up his chances in the break and coming back to help...I couldn’t have asked for more."