Britain’s Chris Froome managed to pull himself back into contention in the Vuelta a España with a vengeance during stage 14 on Saturday. The Team Sky rider looked to be struggling halfway up the final climb of the Camperona, but as it turned out, in fact Froome was gauging his effort in order to be able to return to the fray.
And he did so in style. Froome not only regained contact with the race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), but then managed to drop them both on the higher slopes of the final ascent. Granted, the difference was minimal - Froome only gained seven seconds on Contador - but the boost to his morale will have been considerable.
As Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) struggled on the climb, Froome has moved ahead of him in third overall, at 1:13 behind the race leader. After his disappointing time trial, it looked as if Froome was heading out of contention, now he is back on the radar, again - but he appeared uncertain about how much further he could go.
“I was just trying to ride my own race,” Froome said by way of explanation of his tactics. “Everybody who would attack at the bottom of the last race would be cooked, so I didn’t want to do that.
“The result is ok for me, but I don’t know about the next two days. Sooner or later I might pay for those intense efforts I’ve done on that climb. What makes me feel good is that my team is strong.”
Froome’s tribute to his team was logical, given they rode very hard on the approach to the climb, with Pete Kennaugh making a notable effort to rip the peloton to a minimum.
As for tomorrow’s stage 15, at least Froome will not be operating on unknown territory: he rode up the Covadonga climb in 2012. Two years ago, he was dropped eight kilometres from the finish and lost 35 seconds on Contador and others, and dropped to fourth overall. This time round, it could be a different story.