Froome battles through Vuelta a Espana's tough mountain finish
Sky captain: "I'm surviving"
Chris Froome (Team Sky) dug deep on the first major summit finish of the Vuelta a España, but lost time to new race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Still third overall, Froome gained time on everyone else except second placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Fifteenth on the line, the Briton lost 33 seconds on the Alto de la Camperona to Quintana and eight to Contador, but crossed the line in the same time as Valverde. His teammate Leopold König also showed very strongly, and the former Vuelta mountain top stage winner is still fifth place overall.
As has often happened in the Vuelta before - and indeed, that was Froome's tactic on the summit finish at Ezaro a few days ago - the Briton ceded time on his rivals early on before regaining momentum.
He then went clear with Quintana and Contador, and whilst unable to follow the Colombian, accelerated hard and gained time on the Spaniard. However, in a remarkable late comeback, Contador then picked up his own pace and passed Froome close to the line.
Froome is third overall, 27 seconds back on Quintana and eight seconds down on Alejandro Valverde, but retains a solid 69 second advantage on Contador.
"It was a tough climb, and Nairo showed he was in good condition, so chapeau to him," Froome said at the finish "Alberto did great too, particularly after yesterday's crash, that shows he's a fighter."
"As for myself - I'm surviving."
Although losing time to Quintana - and a little to Contador - represents a setback, Froome's objective though, of riding himself into the race and hoping he can turn things around, remains more than intact.
He has gained some time on Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), who was not able to stay with the favourites, and remains well within striking distance of the lead. Rather than the Alto de La Camperona, the Lagos de Covadonga will perhaps prove to be the really decisive day for Froome in this first segment of the Vuelta.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.