Chris Froome went toe to toe with his general classification rivals, finishing fourth on stage 14 at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Brit rode across a gap to shut down his main adversaries on the tough, special-category La Pandera climb. That ensured he maintained his grip on the red jersey, finishing in a select group of favourites.
His lead advantage now stands at 55 seconds, trimmed slightly after Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) picked up four bonus seconds for third place. Froome finished on the Italian’s wheel, with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and new third-placed man Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) also present.
“When Alberto Contador, Nibali and Chaves kicked on there with 4-5km to go we knew it was a long way to go, with over 10 minutes still of climbing”, said Froome. “So I was very much in control with Wout, and also thinking a little bit about tomorrow as that’s a massive day – a really really massive day. Even though it’s shorter it’s going to be explosive and we’re expecting fireworks again.
“That was a great day for us – a good one to tick off and to come out without having lost any major time. Four bonus seconds to Nibali that’s alright – I’ll take that for today and safe my legs for tomorrow.
“I think we’ve really managed today really well. The guys were able to save their legs today – we didn’t have to do too much work as other teams came to ride – so we’re very much in control and looking forward to one more hard day before the rest day.
“For us it’s really just about maintaining the position we have. And if we see an opportunity then we’ll go for it.”