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Vuelta Stage 17: Chris Froome reduces gap on Cobo after stunning victory

Cobo hangs on to take second as Team Sky rider reduces deficit at top of GC

Team Sky's Chris Froome this afternoon pulled off a stunning victory on the steep ascent to Peña Cabarga to ride himself right back into contention for the Vuelta in race leader Juan Jose Cobo's home region of Cantabria. Cobo seemed to have been distanced but recovered to pass Froome with the line in sight, but the Kenyan-born rider had just enough left to overhaul the Geox-TMC rider, crossing 1 second ahead of the Spaniard. Froome gets 20 bonus seconds, but Cobo, in finishing second, gets 12 seconds himself and retains the race lead. However, his advantage has been cut to 13 seconds.

Bauke Mollema of Rabobank finished third, 21 seconds behind Cobo, and has made up time on Bradley Wiggins, who retains his podium position but finished 12th today, 29 seconds behind the winner. Mollema also takes over the points classification from Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez, injured in a crash yesterday and clearly struggling today.

The battle between Froome and Cobo on today’s final climb could be the defining moment of the 66th Vuelta, and will certainly be talked about for years to come. The ascent to the finish may only have been 6 kilometres long, but with ramps of up to 18 per cent in places, an explosive finish was guaranteed.

Cobo, who took the overall lead from Wiggins on the Angliru on Sunday, attacked just before the flamme rouge and quickly passed the only man ahead on the road, Omega Pharma Lotto’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

Only Froome was able to follow the race leader, who was enjoying huge and sometimes over-enthusiastic support in his home region.One of those fans got a bit too close to Froome for comfort, the Team Sky rider swatting him out of the way as he attacked Cobo.

After trying desperately to cling to his rival’s wheel the Geox rider suddenly found himself 10, perhaps 15 seconds behind and the red jersey seemed poised to change hands once again. Somehow, though, Cobo managed to recover, pulling himself back up to Froome’s wheel and passing him as the finish line approached, the Team Sky rider wobbling as the Spaniard rode by.

There was just enough road though for Froome to recover his poise and craftily sneak past Cobo on the inside to take the biggest win of his career, plus those nine precious seconds that may yet see him crowned Britain’s first ever Grand Tour winner.

Geox, and David de la Fuente in particular, had put in a huge amount of work earlier on in today’s stage through Rioja country, which at 211 kilometres was the longest of this year’s race. The pace being set was well ahead of that anticipated by race organisers as the main bunch, led by Geox, reined in a breakaway well ahead of that last climb.

There was little hint, however, that the finale would be played out between the two men at the top of the overall standings when Garmin-Cervelo’s Dan Martin attacked as the leaders passed under the 5 kilometres to go banner. The Irishman, looking to repeat his storming win in Stage 9 of the race on the climb of La Covatilla, quickly distanced the chasing Amets Txurruka of Euskaktel-Euskadi and established a decent gap on the GC group.

However, with 3 kilometres to go he was caught by Movistar’s Marzio Bruseghin, and the pair were subsequently joined by Saxo Ban-SunGard’s Chris Anker Sorensen. A short downhill section a couple of kilometres out saw Van Den Broeck, who has had a subdued race as he continues to recover from his broken collarbone sustained during the Tour de France, launch his own attack, and the three leaders were brought back.

Once Cobo attacked with a kilometre to go, however, only Froome was able to stay with him, the pair fighting it out all the way to the line.

Vuelta Stage 17 result 
1  FROOME, Christopher      Team Sky           4h 52' 38''
2  COBO, Juan José          Geox-TMC                 + 1''
3  MOLLEMA, Bauke           Rabobank                + 21''
4  MARTIN, Daniel           Garmin-Cervelo          + 24''
5  ANTON, Igor              Euskaltel-Euskadi       + 27''
6  NIEVE, Mikel             Euskaltel-Euskadi       + 27''
7  BRUSEGHIN, Marzio        Movistar                + 29''
8  VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen   Omega Pharma-Lotto      + 31''
9  MENCHOV, Denis           Geox-TMC                + 31''
10 INTXAUSTI, Beñat         Movistar                + 35''
11 MORENO, Daniel           Katusha                 + 35''
12 WIGGINS, Bradley         Team Sky                + 39''
13 SÖRENSEN, Chris          Saxo Bank-SunGard       + 42''
14 MONCOUTIE, David         Cofidis                 + 49''
15 NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale     + 51''
16 LAGUTIN, Sergey          Vacansoleil-DCM         + 54''
17 ROCHE, Nicolas           AG2R-La Mondiale     + 1' 02''
18 POELS, Wouter            Vacansoleil-DCM      + 1' 14''
19 MONFORT, Maxime          Leopard-Trek         + 1' 22''
20 LE MEVEL, Christophe     Garmin-Cervelo       + 1' 34''

Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 17 
1  COBO, Juan José          Geox-TMC          69h 31' 41''
2  FROOME, Christopher      Team Sky                + 13''
3  WIGGINS, Bradley         Team Sky             + 1' 41''
4  MOLLEMA, Bauke           Rabobank             + 2' 05''
5  MENCHOV, Denis           Geox-TMC             + 3' 48''
6  MONFORT, Maxime          Leopard Trek         + 4' 13''
7  NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale  + 4' 31''
8  VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen   Omega Pharma-Lotto   + 4' 45''
9  MORENO, Daniel           Katusha              + 5' 20''
10 NIEVE, Mikel             Euskaltel-Euskadi    + 5' 33''

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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