Chris Froome (Team Sky) suffered in the Vuelta a España's mid-race time trial, but managed to stay in fifth overall despite finishing a below-expectations 10th on the stage. Previously 28 seconds down former race leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Froome is now 1:18 back on the new rider wearing la roja, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Froome crashed during the first week of the Vuelta, as well as during a training ride before the race start. But his injuries are said to be very slight, and the Kenyan-born Briton put the blame for his time trial performance firmly on over-estimating his strength in the first part of the course and then running dangerously low on energy levels in the second part as a result.
Curiously enough, this was exactly the same error made by Bradley Wiggins back in the 2011 Vuelta mid-race time trial at Salamanca, when Wiggins - like Froome on Tuesday, widely touted to take the lead - instead burned himself out early on in the time trial and then struggled to maintain the high pace for the second half.
Back in 2011 at Salamanca, Froome paced himself better and moved into the race lead ahead of Wiggins, a result which heralded his breakthrough as a Grand Tour rider. But at Borja, in equally sweltering temperatures and on a radically different course, Froome recognised he over-reached in the opening leg of the time trial, and, as he ruefully put it afterwards, "I paid the price for that."
"It was a very tough day for me today, to be honest I started off way too fast, I think out of the blocks for the first 10 to 15 minutes to the foot of the climb I got a bit carried away and chased it a little bit," he said after a lengthy warm-down by the Team Sky caravan.
"I paid the price for it all the way up that climb and then just never came back from the red there."
The consequences are bad, but not disastrous for his bid for the general classification. "I've lost a lot of time today, but I'm still fifth overall just over a minute down, and going back to the goal I had when I came into this race, I'm going to keep fighting every day, pushing through to the end," Froome said defiantly.
"I'm going to give it my all, and I've got a great team to support me here."
Asked what that ‘all' exactly was following Tuesday's defeat, Froome recognised that "I've always said that winning this was going to be really difficult, but I'm going to be here fighting every day."
On the plus side, his high-end form is, he says, returning. "I've already felt through the first week of racing. I'm getting that race rhythm back in the legs and hopefully that's going to pull me into the last week in good shape."
"I'm not just going to throw the towel in because I'm a minute down. I'm here to fight to the end."
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.
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