Heroic display from Froome
Brit plays starring role in breathtaking finish
By Jonathan Turner. Last Updated: 09/09/11 10:13pm
Froome: Epic display to win stage 17 and move to within 13 seconds of the lead
Team Sky's Chris Froome won an astonishing 17th stage of the Vuelta a Espana to cut the gap on race leader Juan José Cobo to just 13 seconds.
The 211 kilometres stage from Faustino V to the mountain-top finish at Pena Cabarga always looked like one of the last chances for Froome and Team Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins to cut into the slender lead of Cobo.
The Geox rider started the day 22 seconds ahead of second-placed Froome and 51 in front of Wiggins in third and it was Froome who threw down the gauntlet in spectacular fashion with around a kilometre to go on the final climb as the gradients ramped up to 19% in places.
The Kenyan-born Brit put clear daylight between himself and his Spanish rival and with 20 seconds also up for grabs for the stage winner it looked for a few moments as if he was riding himself back into the leader's red jersey.
But Cobo held his nerve superbly to claw back the deficit and he somehow managed to battle back into the lead with 100 metres remaining.
Even then though Froome refused to be denied and he surged up the inside on the final corner to take the victory in what was one of the most memorable finishes in Vuelta and Grand Tour history.
Just a second separated him from the gallant runner-up on the line which means that Cobo's overall advantage is now down 13 seconds with four stages remaining.
The pair finished well clear of third-placed Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) while Wiggins came home in 12th place and retains third on the GC, 24 seconds to the good over Mollema.
It was Froome's first Grand Tour victory and was fully merited after an outstanding display throughout the Vuelta, and he admitted afterwards: "That was one of the hardest days on the bicycle in my life.
"It was the last mountain-top finish so we came in here trying to do as much as we could - but Cobo was extremely strong again and is still holding the red jersey.
"The whole team have been fantastic throughout this race - they've done absolutely everything for me and Bradley."
And looking ahead to the remainder of the race, Froome vowed to do everything he could to get back into the lead, adding: "The hardest stages are now over but we'll still go out there every day and look to make it hard for Cobo."