PENA CABARGA, Spain (VN) — Soigneurs and team mechanics watching the action from inside the Team Sky bus at the base of Peña Cabarga erupted in cheers when Chris Froome laid down his attack in the final kilometer.
It was unlikely that Froome could hear that or anything else in the last grinding meters of the stage, but the Sky rider timed it just right to deliver his first professional victory with dramatic style.
“That was one of the hardest days of my life on the bicycle,” said the soft-spoken Froome. “I knew the climb from last year and I knew the final kilometer would be decisive. I wanted to do everything I could to try to make up the difference.”
Froome almost cracked Cobo, but the Geox-TMC race leader clawed back in the final meters to cross the line second to keep the red jersey by a slender margin of 13 seconds.
Team Sky was ecstatic with its second stage victory of this Vuelta and content that they were able to keep Bradley Wiggins, who struggled on the final ramps, in the running for a podium position with third at 1:41 back.
“It’s not over yet,” said Sky sport director Servais Knaven. “We still have three stages to try to take it to Cobo. It won’t be easy, but we’re motivated to keep fighting. It’s a grand tour. We are going to fight right to the end.”
Froome has emerged as a legitimate GC contender during this Vuelta, proving he has the all-round skills in both time trials and climbs to battle over three weeks.
He came into this Vuelta to help Wiggins, but said the work he’s done over the past two weeks to defend Wiggins has not cost him now when he’s within shot of overall victory.
“I’ve learned so much over the past few weeks working for Bradley, about how to be a leader, about how to race a grand tour,” Froome said. “It’s easy to talk about things now, but I have no regrets at all about how this Vuelta has gone.”
Froome said the team will study the closing three road stages to see if there’s an opportunity to try to attack Cobo or make a stab for the intermediate and finish-line bonuses that have become critical in this Vuelta.
“Although we’re all so happy for Froomey, it’s going to be hard to pull 13 seconds back now,” said Sky sport director Steven de Jongh. “Putting some time in at the end of the stages is going to be our goal now I think.”