Chris Froome (Sky) confirmed after a fast and fraught stage 16 that he will continue battling for overall victory in the Vuelta a España despite losing a large chunk of time on leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in Sunday's stage in the Pyrenees.
"I'm still in second place, which obviously I'm happy about, but I am a lot further back than I was going into yesterday, so obviously that was a big blow," Froome told a small group of reporters after stage 16.
"But that's cycling, things can change in the blink of an eye and I've got to keep fighting to the end. Of course I'm not just going to give up now."
Asked directly if he could still win the Vuelta, Froome said: "It's less possible than it was before but it doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying."
Now 3:37 off the overall lead, Froome and Sky certainly showed themselves to be in no mood to throw in the towel in the closing kilometres of the stage to Peñiscola, regularly massing at the front in order, as Froome said later, to be sure there was no repeat of Sunday's ambush attack.
"There was a lot of talk about potential crosswinds and you could see all the teams were thinking about that," Froome said. "It was quite a nervous peloton, everyone was really on guard today and didn't want to see a repeat of yesterday certainly.
"It was a technical run-in, so we wanted to be on the front end of it, you could see Tinkoff were thinking the same thing, they had numbers up there. But it was more about being up there and not getting caught out today."
Froome and the Vuelta peloton now have a rest day, followed by the first mountain stage of the third week, over 3,500 metres of vertical climbing culminating in another one of the Vuelta's short, but punishingly steep summit finishes at Mas de La Costa. Then after next Friday's time trial, there is a final summit finish, on the much longer, steadier ascent to Aitana.
As for which of the two climbs could suit him better, Froome said: "It's difficult to say what's actually better out on the road. Yesterday's stage on paper was not the hardest stage but we've seen the biggest gaps in the race so far. It really depends on what the riders decide and what tactics prevail."
One thing seems certain, however: Froome is not simply settling for second overall, for what would be a third time in the Vuelta, next Sunday in Madrid.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.