BREAKING NEWS FROM THE VUELTA
Chris Froome’s white jersey, the emblem of the leader of the combination classification, looked more like a white flag of surrender as the Sky rider found himself on the receiving end of a different kind of combination on the 15th stage of the Vuelta a España to Formigal. The British rider was isolated behind a runaway front group which included the race leader Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador, who forged common interest in pressing on. With a long time trial to come, Froome had been breathing down the Colombian’s neck on the GC and seemed to be gaining in confidence as Quintana repeatedly but mainly unsuccessfully tried to put time into him on the long summit finishes. But stage 15 was ambush territory. It was short, at 120km, with three tough climbs, including another summit finish.
The ambush actually happened before the climbs, and before anybody, least of all Froome, realised what was up. On a draggy uphill straight out of the start, the split occurred, forced by Contador and then by an unusually opportunistic Quintana. The gap was initially pegged at 20 seconds but Froome’s problems grew when there was another split, with the bulk of the peloton, including most of his team-mates, caught behind his group. That left him very short of manpower and with a rapidly-growing deficit to manage. The Movistar team also played a tactical blinder, with one of their riders leading Froome’s group in pursuit for a while - not to chase Quintana but to ensure that Froome stayed isolated from his team-mates behind.
Froome fought a valiant rearguard action, holding the gap at two minutes for a long time but faltering on the last climb, to leave himself with an insurmountable 3:37 deficit overall. Misery loves company, however, and if it was any consolation to Froome, Orica also got caught out by the break, with Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates both conceding time.
On a climb out of the start, the split occurred, forced by Contador and followed by an unusually opportunistic Quintana