A British rider from Team Sky had been widely expected to be leading the Vuelta a Espana this evening after today's individual time trial in Salamanca - but in a huge surprise, it is the Kenya-born Chris Froome who is in the red jersey. The 26-year-old, who took British citizenshi in 2008, put in the time trial of his life to finish second behind HTC-Highroad's Tony Martin, 59 seconds behind the German, with Bradley Wiggins a further 23 seconds behind in third. Leopard Trek's Jakob Fuglsang lies second overall, splitting the British pair in the General Classification.
Taking the race leader’s jersey is by far the high point to date of the career of the former Barloworld rider Froome, who finished second behind Wiggins in the British national time trial championships last year.
Expectations before today’s stage were that the win would be contested between Martin, Cancellara and Wiggins, with the Briton also involved in the separate but equally crucial battle in the for the overall lead. No-one expected that Frome might not only finish second, but also take the leader's jersey.
With his team’s sprinters, Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss, both departing the Vuelta in the opening days, Martin came to today’s stage much fresher than Cancellara, who in Stages 2 and 3 helped defend the leader’s jersey for first Jakob Fuglsang, then Daniele Bennati, and has been riding since then for Fuglsang and Maxime Montfort.
Meanwhile, the question mark over Wiggins today related to how much his impressive performance on the climb of La Covatilla yesterday had taken out of him.
Cancellara, who in Copenhagen next month will be seeking his fifth world time trial championship, was the 33rd rider out on the 47 kilometre course today, the benchmark time remaining the 57 minutes 27 seconds set by the man who holds the under-23 title, BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney, the third rider to start.
The Leopard Trek man came home in 57 minutes 21 seconds to set a new fastest time just six seconds inside that of Phinney, but Martin, the 72nd rider to start, would rip the course apart, posting a time nearly a minute and a half quicker than Cancellara’s.
Wiggins hit the course at twenty past four local time, two hours to the minute after Martin, still in the lead, had rolled down the ramp to begin his challenge.
Riding for the last time in the red, white and blue colours of British champion – the Team Sky man’s presence at the Vuelta means he cannot defend his title next Saturday – Wiggins powered through the first intermediate split, taken at 13.3 kilometres, in 16 minutes 36 seconds, just 1 second ahead of Tony Martin.
Moments later, he passed the man ahead of him on the course, yesterday’s stage winner, Dan Martin of Garmin-Cervelo, wearing the blue polka dots of mountains classification leader.
The Irishman had been moved slightly in the start order to split up the Team Sky pairing of Wiggins and Chris Froome, 13th and 14th respectively on GC this morning.
All the expectation from British fans might have been on Wiggins, but Froome too was flying round the course, posting what was the second fastest time at the second split, 29 seconds down on Tony Martin.
Wiggins was the next rider through, 10 seconds quicker than his team mate but crucially, for the stage win at least, he had lost 20 seconds to the German on the middle section of the course.
Worse was to follow for Wiggins as he lost another minute to Martin by the time he reached the stage finish in the ancient university city’s Plaza Mayor, by which time Frome had already set the second fastest time of the afternoon, 59 seconds behind the German and slowly it began to dawn that Team Sky might have the race leader, but not the man anyone had expected.
It was a different story for some of the other riders with ambitions for the GC. Lampre-ISD’s Michele Scarponi, who had slipped to 18th overall yesterday, came home four and a half minutes down on Martin. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali was nearly two and a half minutes down on the stage winner. Jouaquin Rodrigeuz meanwhile lost more than foive minutes, while overnight leader Bauke Mollema of Rabobank lost three.
Among the leaders this morning, only Jakob Fuglasang of Leopard Trek came close to challenging the Team Sky duo, and the Dane, who finished sixth today, now lies second overall, while Nibali, who posted the 15th fastest time, is fourth.
For Team Sky, there is now the dilemma of how they approach the rest of the race - will Froome continue to ride for Wiggins, a task he has accomplished in style so far during the race, or should the emphasis now be put on the man who is now leading the race?
Tomorrow's rest day will give the team an opportunity to reflect.
Vuelta Stage 10 result
1 MARTIN, Tony HTC-Highroad 55' 54'' 2 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 59'' 3 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 1' 22'' 4 CANCELLARA, Fabian Leopard Trek + 1' 27'' 5 PHINNEY, Taylor BMC Racing + 1' 33'' 6 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 1' 37'' 7 MACHADO, Tiago RadioShack + 1' 54'' 8 BRAJKOVIC, Janez RadioShack + 1' 56'' 9 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León Rabobank + 2' 02'' 10 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 2' 06'' 11 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 2' 18'' 12 SANTOS OLIVEIRA, Nelson RadioShack + 2' 19'' 13 MENCHOV, Denis Geox-TMC + 2' 19'' 14 O'GRADY, Stuart Leopard Trek + 2' 20'' 15 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 2' 24'' 16 TALANSKY, Andrew Garmin-Cervelo + 2' 28'' 17 IRIZAR, Markel RadioShack + 2' 51'' 18 CHAMPION, Dimitri AG2R La Mondiale + 2' 52'' 19 KARPETS, Vladimir Katusha + 2' 53'' 20 KRUIJSWIJK, Steven Rabobank + 2' 57'' Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 10 1 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky 38h 09' 13'' 2 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 12'' 3 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 20'' 4 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Canondale + 31'' 5 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 34'' 6 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 59'' 7 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 1' 07'' 8 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC + 1' 47'' 9 BRAJKOVIC, Janez RadioShack + 2' 04'' 10 ZUBELDIA, Haimar RadioShack + 2' 13''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.