Chris Froome is poised to win this year’s Vuelta a Espana with only tomorrow’s largely ceremonial sprint stage to go. The Tour de France winner survived the vicious slopes of the Angliru – on which Alberto Contador secured the final mountain stage win of his career – and in so doing became the first rider to achieve the Tour-Vuelta double since the Spanish race was moved to its current place on the calendar in 1995.
Despite five Tour de France victories, Team Sky had up until now failed to land either of the other Grand Tours. Froome has repeatedly targeted the Vuelta and been runner-up on three occasions.
Standing between him and victory was the Alto de l’Angliru, the 12.5km 9.8% climb on which he lost vital seconds to Juan Jose Cobo while working for Bradley Wiggins in 2011.
On this occasion, he arrived with a buffer of 1m37s over second-placed Vincenzo Nibali – but having ceded time to his rival on the steep slopes of Alto de los Machucos earlier in the week, overall victory was no foregone conclusion.
Nibali crashed on the descent before the Angliru, but rejoined the group of favourites on the climb. However, on the steep upper slopes, he lost touch with Froome and the game was up.
— Team Sky (@TeamSky) September 9, 2017
Up ahead, Contador was bowing out in fine style.
Riding his final Grand Tour, the Spaniard has been attacking almost relentlessly since losing several minutes in the first week due to illness. Today was no exception.
He launched himself off the front at the foot of the Angliru, caught and passed everyone who’d been in the break and never relented from there. It was the first Spanish win of the race.
Contador was followed over the line by Wout Poels and Froome and after them, Ilnur Zakarin, who stole enough of an advantage over Wilco Kelderman to pinch third overall.