Chris Froome wins stage nine to extend lead at La Vuelta

Vuelta a Espana 2017

Stage 9

Chris Froome stormed to victory on Stage 9 of La Vuelta to consolidate his position as GC leader.

Froome took his maiden road win of the season to extend his lead on general classification in La Vuelta’s first summit finish of 2017. The Team Sky leader takes a 10-second bonus for crossing the line first, with nearest GC rival, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), in second place. He stands 36 seconds ahead of the Colombian on general classification after the stage.

Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) finished third and will take a handful of seconds on the other riders in the top 10. The Canadian crossed one second down on Chaves and five down on Froome. Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) was next over the line at eight seconds, with Ilnur Zakarin on the same time.

A third splinter group containing Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), David De La Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) and Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb) crossed 12 seconds behind Froome. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) and Vicenzo Nibali(Bahrain-Merida) round out the stage top 10 at 14 seconds down.

Team Sky took up the pace-setting on the run-in to the climb and delivered Froome to the foot of the Cumbre del Sol, after Cannondale-Drapac spent much of the day working to bring back the break. Froome, though, did it all on his own when it came down to it, biding his time until the final kilometre before putting in a stinging attack to distance most of his rivals.

The top five remains unchanged, with Roche in third, Nibali fourth and Van Garderen in fifth. De La Cruz and Fabio Aru (Astana) change places after the Italian lost time today, while Woods climbs from ninth to eighth at the expense of British rider and Chaves’ team mate, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott). Adam’s brother, Simon Yates, was the day’s biggest loser in terms of the general classification, shipping 10’37” to drop from 14th to 29th.

Froome celebrates as he crosses the line.

Early attacks on the lower slopes of Cumbre del Sol came from Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar), with the Ecuadorean looking to take something from what has, so far, been an uninspiring Vuelta for his Spanish team. Bardet, meanwhile, hasn’t really got out of the blocks at the Vuelta and is probably suffering fatigue after his Tour de France exertions.

De La Cruz also tried his hand, once both Bardet and Carapaz had been reeled in, but his attack after the flamme rouge only served to provide Froome with the perfect springboard to launch his own acceleration. From there Froome forged on, leaving his rivals in his wake and edging another step closer to a historic Tour-Vuelta double.

The break went away after a frantic first hour of racing and had been working well together until the first ascent of Puig de Llorenca, at which point only the strongest climbers continued pushing on. Briefly staying with Ludvigsson and Soler were Ricardo Vilela (Manzana Postobon) and Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), while Connor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo), Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Diego Rubio (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) rapidly lost contact.

The peloton was led for most of the day by Woods’ Cannondale-Drapac team-mates, including Simon Clarke who put in an impressive effort to close down the break. The Australian rider clearly giving it everything to deliver his leader into the finish in as good a position as possible.

Froome retains his lead in the white jersey competition (combined classification) and also takes over green jersey (points classification) from Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors). Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) keeps the polka-dot jersey for leader of the mountains classification. Movistar lead the team competition.

Speaking after the stage Froome said:

“Today was incredible. The way it panned out, the way my team mates rode in the final kilometres to set it up… It’s just fantastic. It’s such a good feeling to get to the end of this first block with the red jersey and a decent gap on the rest of the GC riders. (Finishing 2nd at La Cumbre del Sol in 2015) was still on my mind this morning. We watched the scenes from two years ago over and over in the bus this morning just to really calculate the climb and know when the right moment to push was. The legs felt great today and it feels good to be in this position.”

Tomorrow is a rest day, before the action resumes on Tuesday with another mountainous stage in Murcia.

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