After Team Sky had made the running on most of the Collada de la Gallina on stage 8 of the Vuelta a España, Chris Froome was squeezed out of the top three on the day in the closing kilometre of the challenging climb.
Froome remains in second overall, but has dropped down to 33 seconds, after he came home 15 seconds down on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Froome said afterwards that “it was a really tough climb with Alberto and Purito and Valverde all there, although it made for an exciting race.”
Asked if it was now a question of him against three Spaniards, Froome said with a smile “I hope not! Otherwise it’s going to make for two weeks of really tough racing.”
Froome said that Wednesday’s 39 kilometre time trial will be a key moment of the race, but that the three stages in northern Spain’s mountains at the end of the second week would be equally important.
“I’ll be going at the maximum there, but I’m still on a learning curve, it’s a new experience for me doing two Grand Tours in the same year. I don’t now how far it’ll get me, but there’s only one way to find out.”
His rival Alberto Contador looked to be in far better shape than at the Fuerte del Ezaro in Jaca two days before, dropping Froome in the final kilometre although he ran out of gas close to the finish and could not take the stage.
“I needed a little bit more power, but I’m very happy with how it worked out, we dropped Froome which was important,” Contador said.
“I’m going well but not super-well, I’d have liked to have won but I was concentrating on Froome rather than on Alejandro and Joaquim when they came back up to me.
“Either way, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but my big objective is still in Madrid, not here.”