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With a brutal attack on the steep final climb, Froome distanced Contador by 28 seconds to take the overall lead in the Vuelta a Andalusia by two seconds

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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CHRIS FROOME

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MIKEL NIEVE

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TEAM SKY

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VUELTA A ANDALUCIA

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21.02.2015 @ 16:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after his big defeat, Chris Froome (Sky) bounced back with a magnificent performance to win the final big mountain stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia. The Brit attacked with 2km to go of the brutally steep Alto de Allanadas and managed to distance Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to take the overall lead by a single second after a thrilling drama.

 

Yesterday Chris Froome was the big loser in the first big battle with Alberto Contador when the Brit was unable to keep up with his archrival on the steep Alto de Hazallanas. After the stage, however, he claimed to be happy with his sensations as he had done very little intensity work in training.

 

Today he proved that he has every reason to be satisfied with his preparation as he got a storming revenge in the second big battle in the Andalusian mountains. With a ride reminiscent of the ones he delivered at the 2013 Tour de France, he put in a searing attack to distance Contador convincingly in just a space of 2km.

 

Already at the bottom of the final climb, Froome showed his intention when he asked his Sky team to up the pace. Nicolas Roche passed Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo) and set a brutal pace to whittle down the peloton and chase down lone attacker Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty) who has started the climb with an advantage of 1.50.

 

Maciej Paterski (CCC) tried to break the rhythm by launching an attack but he never got an advantage of more than a few metres. When he was caught, he gave Roche a bit of a respite by riding on the front before Roche went back to work.

 

They flew down the small descent halfway up the climb before Roche led them onto the steep final section. At this point, Selvaggi was still one minute ahead but his advantage was coming down rapidly.

 

As soon as they hit the steep slopes, Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) launched an attack, sprinting past Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) who was a remnant of the early break. Roche continued for a little while before Peter Kennaugh made an acceleration.

 

Froome deliberately allowed the British champion to get a gap and this forced Benat Intxausti (Movistar) to go into chase mode as the Brit was a threat to his podium spot. Selvaggi was now fading dramatically and was passed by the in-form Kennaugh a few moments later.

 

Just as this happened, however, both riders were brought back and now Mikel Nieve hit the front for Sky. Only Intxausti, Froome and Contadro could match the pace and when Intxausti cracked, Nieve suddenly got a gap.

 

It seemed as Froome was content to allow his teammate to win the stage but suddenly he launched a big attack. With Contador glued to his wheel, he sprinted past the strong Basque and the scene was set for the great duel.

 

However, it didn’t take long for Contador to crack and Froome immediately got a big gap. Just like yesterday, it turned into a mountain time trial for the two giants and like yesterday the Brit was the fastest in the final part of the climb.

 

Froome had gone into the stage with 27-second deficit and with less than 500m to go, he had increased his advantage to 29 seconds. Contador made a big acceleration in the finale to try to save his lead but didn't manage to claw back a single second, losing 29 seconds to his rival. Nieve was next across the line but lost more than 50 seconds to hit teammate.

 

With no bonus seconds in the race, Froome takes the lead with a 2-second advantage over Contador as he goes into the final stage of the race. It is mostly a downhill run to the coast but the stage has a nasty sting n its tail as the final 500m are uphill with sections of more than 20%, meaning that Contador still has a chance to take back the one second he needs to win the race.

 

A big mountain stage

There was no room to recover for the riders in the Vuelta a Andalucia as another big mountain stage was scheduled one day after the first big battle. The riders were set to cover 199.8km from Maracena to the top of the Alto de la Allanadas and it was a tricky affair with lots of rolling terrain. The riders tackled three category 3 climbs in the first half before an easier section led to the bottom of the final climb. It was only 4.4km long but with and average gradient of 10.4%, it was expected to some damage.

 

After three days under the sun, the riders took the start under a grey and rainy sky. However, only 136 riders headed out on the long and difficult ride as Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) had been forced to abandon the race.

 

KOM points for Bilbao

As the riders reached the real start, it had stopped raining but the wet roads made the conditions dangerous. That didn’t stop the attacking spirit though as the race got off to a very fast and animated beginning.

 

Apparently, Movistar and Sky were intent on putting Tinkoff-Saxo under pressure and those two teams were very active in the early attacking. However, the Russian team kept everything under control and when KOM leader Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) led Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Carlos Quintero (Colombia) over the top of the first climb after 14km of racing, no one had managed to escape.

 

Lots of abandonments

The fast pace was too much for Dario Hernandez (Burgos) who stepped off his bike and a little later Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) also left the race. The rain again started to fall and the temperature dropped to just 6 degrees but the fast pace continued and after 40km of racing, no one had still managed to get clear.

 

Fabio Duarte (Colombia) was the next rider to withdraw just before the riders completed the first hour at an average speed of 45kph. Moments later, the break was finally formed when Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), Lucas Euser (Unitedhealthcare), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Huub Duyn (Roompot), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Nicholas Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka) got a gap.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo accelerate

At the 49km mark, they were 20 seconds ahead and while Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare) climbed off his bike, the peloton finally slowed down. After 59km of racing, the escapees had extended their advantage to 2.20 and it reached 2.40 before the peloton brought the situation under control.

 

Again it was the Tinkoff-Saxo team that hit the front and at the 75km mark, they had reduced their deficit to just 1.40. Meanwhile, Carthy led Duyn and Selvaggi over the top of the second climb of the day.

 

Kiriyenka and Navarro abandon

The cold conditions were hard for many riders and Chris Froome lost an important domestique when Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky) abandoned. A little later Marco Canola became the second Unitedhealthcare rider to leave the race. At this point, the gap had come back up to 2.22.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo were in no mood to let the break stay clear and so they accelerated hard. Unfortunately, the wet roads brought Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) down in a crash and he was forced to withdraw from the race with a suspected broken ulna.

 

Salas and Jacobs bridge the gap

At the 120km mark, the gap was down to 50 seconds and this prompted Ibai Salas (Burgos) and Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) to try to bridge the gap. After a short chase, they made the junction but it wa just too late for sprints leader Jacobs to contest the first intermediate sprint which was won by Geschke ahead of Duyn and Selvaggi.

 

Geschke and Jacobs sprinted for the points in the second sprint and again the German came out on top to take the lead in the competition. At this point, the gap had gone up to 2.15 and it was still Matteo Tosatto, Michael Valgren and Evgeny Petrov doing all the work for Tinkoff-Saxo.

 

Geschke and Selvaggi take off

There was no cohesion in the front group and with 51km to go, Geschke decided to attack. Selvaggi managed to join him and the pair easily distanced their former companion.

 

Sicard and Duyn took off in pursuit and Salas managed to get onto their back wheels. Later Jacobs and Carthy also got across while Dougall and Euser fell back to the peloton.

 

The chasers lose ground

Geschke only got very little help from Selvaggi but the strong German managed to extend his advantage. With 43km to go, the gap was 3.05 and with 33km, it was 4.10.

 

Valgren, Tosatto and Petrov were clearly riding full gas but an impressive Geschke managed to keep the gap stable at 4.10. Meanwhile, the chasers constantly lost ground and also members as Jacobs and later Salas fell back to the peloton.

 

Geschke wins the sprint

With 20km to go, the peloton split in two as Tinkoff-Saxo rode hard in a crosswind section but all the big names seemed to be in the first group. Meanwhile, Selvaggi had again started to work with Geschke after having got a free ride for a long time.

 

Geschke reached his goal by winning the final intermediate sprint while Tinkoff-Saxo had brought the gap down to 3.10. They finally got a bit of help when Movistar and Ag2r came to the fore and later LottoNL-Jumbo also put a rider on the front.

 

The chasers are caught

Sergio Paulinho was now also working for Tinkoff-Saxo and with 9km to go, they brought the three chasers back. Meanwhile, the battle for position had now really started and several teams were lined out on the front.

 

With 7km to go, Geschke started to suffer and he lost contact with Selvaggi on a small climb. This is when Roche hit the front and started to string out the peloton that was now 1.55 behind. Moments later, Selvaggi hit the climb to set the scene for the thrilling finale.

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