BREAK­ING NEWS FROM THE VUELTA

Procycling - - Review Of The Year 2016 -

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

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