Froome went on the attack in the final kilometres to finish third on the first mountain stage of the race which was won by Vincenzo Nibali, but benefitted from taking key bonus seconds to move into the red jersey.
“It’s the result of a lot of hard work today from my team-mates. We decided to take it on on the penultimate climb and the guys were just fantastic,” Froome said.
“They laid down a really hard tempo and did a fantastic job, especially a guy like Gianni Moscon – it’s his first Grand Tour with Team Sky.
“When he hit the front the race just blew to bits. He was great today, as were the rest of the guys. It was tough conditions out there – it was really hot today and tough climbs. I’ve lost the Vuelta before by 13 seconds so at this point I’m going to fight for every second I can at this point.
“It has been a long time (since last wearing the red jersey). It feels amazing to put it back on and to be in this position. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. I’ve worked hard to be here after the Tour and I’m really happy to be in this position.
“[Keeping the jersey until the end] is going to be really hard, especially with all the time bonuses out there. There’s just two seconds until the next group of riders so it’s still really close. We can expect a big fight for the jersey.
“I don’t necessarily expect to keep it all the way, especially with it being so close. We’re just going to have to see one day at a time. Obviously we’re going to do everything we can to protect it now.”