PENA CABARGA, Spain (AFP) – Britain’s Chris Froome of Team Sky won the 17th stage of the Tour of Spain on Wednesday in a grueling uphill duel to the finish line with Spain’s Juan Jose Cobo, who retained the leader’s red jersey.
The 26-year-old Kenya-born rider gained nine seconds on Cobo’s lead in the overall standings through his one-second win and bonus points.
He now trails the Spaniard by just 13 seconds, setting up the prospect of a thrilling final four stages before the riders reach Madrid on Sunday.
Another British member of the Sky Team, Bradley Wiggins, finished 12th in Wednesday’s mountainous 211-kilometer stage from Faustino V to Pena Cabarga — the longest of this year’s Tour — and lost time on the overall leaders while retaining third place.
The Olympic gold medalist is now one minute, 41 seconds behing Cobo.
In the final hill climb in the 6.1 kilometers up the Pena Cabarga, which has gradients that reach 19 percent, the lead changed hands several times as first Ireland’s Daniel Martin then Belgium’s Juergen van den Broeck attacked.
When a determined Froome took over, he seemed set to take the stage and possibly the leader’s jersey before an exhausted Cobo appeared behind him.
A duel between the two ended with the Briton crossing the line just one second ahead of the Spaniard. Third was Dutchman Bauke Mollema of Rabobank, 21 seconds behing Froome, while Martin was fourth, three seconds further back.
The stage was marked by several short-lived breakaways.
Three Movistar riders — Spaniards Sergio Pardilla and David Lopez and Lithuania’s Ignatas Konovalovas — withdrew from the event due to stomach
Thursday’s 18th stage takes the riders 174.6 kilometers from Solares to Noja, which should see Cobo and Froome resume their battle for the leadership.
Please check back soon for complete results, photos and a report by Andrew Hood.