Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) moved back into a Vuelta a Espana podium position with a second place finish in the race's 40-kilometre time trial in Logrono on Tuesday. Kelderman has been trading places in the standings with Katusha's Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) over the past few days and was able to put 30 seconds into his rival, enough to slot him back into third with a 27-second advantage.
Kelderman also managed to cut the gap between himself and second placed Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) to less than a minute. After a quiet start to the race, Kelderman believes he's riding into it and has every intention of keeping himself on the rostrum in Madrid.
"For the last one and a half weeks, the legs have been really good and every stage I have been getting better and the legs have been better. I will fight for the podium for sure and hopefully I will stay there," Kelderman told Cyclingnews as he warmed down following his effort.
To make the time gains, Kelderman had to put in a lung-busting ride in the stage 16 ride against the clock. Kelderman pushed Froome close in the opening section of the course and had a slight advantage over the race leader in the first check. He paid for his efforts though and slipped back in the second half of the stage, giving away 30 seconds to Froome in the end. It was clear as soon as he finished just how deep Kelderman had buried himself. He took several minutes to get back on his feet after collapsing shortly after the line and used some choice language to those who got a bit too close.
It was an impressive ride from the Dutchman and Froome made sure to shake hands with and congratulate him after the finish. He said afterward that wind had been a factor and perhaps he had gone out too quickly, but in the end, Froome had just been too strong.
"I think I went just a bit too hard in the first part and then in the downhill part, I was really suffering. I think I lost a bit of time, but it was a really good time trial and maybe in the future, it can be better. But, Froome is just a really strong rider and that's the difference," he explained.
"It was a really nice parcours. Yesterday we did a recon and it was a nice hilly time trial, not straight roads and up and down. The start went really good, until the uphill part and then it was downhill and then there was a lot of wind and it was hard to stay straight on the bars and there was a lot of suffering to put the watts into the pedals. I went really deep, but after all, I'm really happy. I'm just a bit disappointed that I didn't win today, but Froome was just better."
Kelderman's first test of his podium place will be Wednesday's summit finish to Los Muchacos. It will be a venture into the unknown for much of the peloton and its brutal slopes will be a stern test of mettle. With ramps of up to 26 per cent in the opening kilometres, the peloton is going to be all over the road. Kelderman will have to fight hard to keep hold of third place overall but he is taking a wait and see approach into the stage.
"It's a really hard climb. I saw some pictures from the road and it looks really steep and hard. We will see tomorrow. It's a big fight tomorrow and I will try to go full again," he said. "Sky is really strong. I will try to follow them, and then I will look at my competitors and see what is possible. I don't know how the legs will be and I don't know how the stage will be ridden.
"I race against everyone, everyone is my competitor. I can't say that I will specifically say that I will ride against anyone. If I have the legs then I will try, but it isn't always like that. It's not a PlayStation game."