Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome produces defiant display as Fabio Aru wins stage 11
By Matt Westby. Last Updated: 04/09/14 12:12pm
Chris Froome fought back from being dropped twice to finish fifth on the stage
Chris Froome produced a defiant performance to stay in touch with his rivals on stage 11 of the Vuelta a Espana as Fabio Aru claimed victory on the day and Alberto Contador retained the overall lead.
Froome was distanced twice on the 9.9km climb to the summit finish at Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar, but doggedly fought his way back to the lead group on each occasion and eventually crossed the finish line in fifth place.
Fabio Aru won the stage solo
Aru surged to his second Grand Tour stage win of the season following an attack 1km out, with Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez and Contador the next three men over the line six seconds later.
An exhausted Froome was awarded the same time as the Spanish trio despite being several metres behind, but Rigoberto Uran couldn’t keep pace at the death and finished another seven seconds adrift in sixth.
The result ensures Contador retains the red jersey, but due to bonus seconds collected by Valverde, his lead over his compatriot in the general classification is cut from 27 seconds to 20. Uran stays third, 1min 08sec back, while Froome’s reward for his remarkable display is a promotion from fifth to fourth, 1min 20sec down.
Earlier in the day, Nairo Quintana abandoned the race after fracturing his shoulder blade in a pile-up around 20km into the stage - his second crash in less than 24 hours.
Froome tweeted: “Words can't explain how tough that final climb was today, I'm very relieved to have finished where I did! The fight continues.”
The 153.4km stage ended with the third summit finish of the race, and although Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka emerged from the day's five-man breakaway to take a solo lead of almost four minutes, the general classification teams in the peloton were keen to battle for stage honours themselves and duly caught him just over 1km into the final climb.
With the Belarusian swallowed up, Team Sky immediately moved to the front of a constantly thinning peloton and set a fierce pace, yet rather than put rivals in trouble, it was instead Froome who suffered from his team-mates’ tempo and the Briton was momentarily dropped 6.5km out.
He managed to regain contact on a subsequent flat section, but short-lived attacks from Daniel Navarro and Dan Martin saw him distanced once again just over 3km from home.
However, the 2013 Tour de France winner found yet more reserves of resilience to claw himself back to the likes of Contador and Valverde, and remarkably, he briefly even moved to the front of the group.
Robert Gesink (Belkin) had earlier launched a solo attack and opened up a lead of 21 seconds, but when he was reeled back in with 1.3km to go, the door was opened for a stage-winning attack and it was Aru (Astana) who impressively seized the chance to add to a victory at May’s Giro d’Italia.
Behind him, Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) ignited the sprint for second place, only for both Valverde (Movistar) and Rodriguez (Katusha) to come past him and snatch the six and four bonus seconds on offer for second and third place.
Stage 11 result
1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, 3:41:03
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +6
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, same time
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
6 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +13
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing, +15
8 Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp, st
9 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, +16
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +21
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo. 40:26:56
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +20sec
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +1:08
4 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +1:20
5 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +1:35
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing, +1:52
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +2:13
8 Winner Anacona (Col) Lampre-Merida, +2:22
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +2:55
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, +3:51