Froome Vuelta king in wait­ing as Con­ta­dor signs off in style

Stabroek News Sunday - - SUNDAY SPORT -

(Reuters) - Chris Froome vir­tu­ally se­cured his first Vuelta a Es­pana vic­tory by com­ing third in the de­ci­sive stage 20 yes­ter­day as Al­berto Con­ta­dor took the stage vic­tory with a typ­i­cally brave at­tack on the Alto de L’Angliru, a dream fi­nale to his event­ful ca­reer.

The Spa­niard, who is re­tir­ing from cy­cling after La Vuelta, burst free of the break­away group at the start of the fi­nal climb in the short, yet pun­ish­ing, 117.5km stage, the last moun­tain­top fin­ish of the con­test.

But as long as Froome avoids dis­as­ter in the last of the 21 stages on Sun­day — a pro­ces­sion through Madrid — the Bri­ton will be­come the third cy­clist to win the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same sea­son, fol­low­ing Jac­ques An­quetil (1963) and Bernard Hin­ault (1978).

Froome leads near­est chal­lenger Vin­cenzo Nibali by two min­utes and 15 se­conds in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion, in­creas­ing his ad­van­tage over the Ital­ian by 38 se­conds with a strong fin­ish in the penul­ti­mate stage while the Ital­ian strug­gled.

Rus­sia’s Il­nur Zakarin is third, two min­utes, 51 se­conds be­hind four-times Tour de France win­ner Froome.

“It’s an ab­so­lute in­cred­i­ble feel­ing, and what a way to end such a mas­sive three weeks of rac­ing, hav­ing com­pleted the TourVuelta dou­ble that’s an amaz­ing feel­ing, thanks to ev­ery­one for all of the sup­port for the last few weeks,” Froome told re­porters.

“It was such a tough climb, we did ev­ery­thing we could to try and catch Al­berto and my con­grat­u­la­tions to him, to fin­ish his ca­reer like this is beau­ti­ful.” Chris Froome

Froome was well­versed in the in­fa­mous Alto de l’Angliru and its 12.5km as­cent, com­ing sec­ond in a stage there in 2011, the year he shot to cy­cling fame by com­ing sec­ond over­all in La Vuelta ahead of team leader Bradley Wig­gins.

Nibali’s faint chances of catch­ing Froome over­all went up in smoke when he crashed with 15km to go on a de­scent be­fore reach­ing the Angliru as­cent, los­ing 20 se­conds on the Bri­ton, while Marc Soler and David de la Cruz also had falls as they strug­gled to ne­go­ti­ate the slip­pery sur­face in the rain.

Con­ta­dor was part of the break­away and ex­tended his lead by at­tack­ing at the start of the Angliru, join­ing Colom­bian Jar­lin­son Pan­tano be­fore drop­ping him and march­ing be­yond To­masz

Mar­czyn­ski to fin­ish the gru­el­ing climb on his own, danc­ing on the ped­als.

The Spa­niard moved up to fourth in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion and is set to miss out on a podium place in his fi­nal pro­fes­sional race, but his mag­nif­i­cent stage win en­sured he still signed off from his glo­ri­ous ca­reer in style.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more beau­ti­ful end­ing, win­ning in the Angliru, it’s a great end to a ca­reer in which I gave ev­ery­thing,” said Con­ta­dor, the only Spa­niard to have won a stage at this year’s Vuelta.

“To­day was my day, I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter mo­ment or place. I at­tacked in ev­ery stage and I’ve only missed out on a podium place by a lit­tle. I want to thank ev­ery­one, this Vuelta has been a gift for me.”

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