The brutal Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España looks to have all but ended Chris Froome’s podium ambitions. The punishing 183.5km leg, which contained two Cat. 1 climbs and an unforgiving 19km uphill finish with a 7% average gradient was really the last opportunity for those with high ambitions to set out their stalls and in Froome’s case ending five minutes and 11 seconds behind stage winner Dario Cataldo of Omega Pharma-Quickstep did nothing to help. He now sits in a respectable (but almost certainly unimprovable) fourth behind an all-Spanish top three: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar, third), Alberto Contador (Saxo Banks, second) and leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Speaking after the stage, Contador said, ‘I’m thrilled with the way we’re doing this race. Today, we tried hard once again but regardless of the result and the fact that Joaquin showed immense power, I’m very happy with the race we’re doing. I think we are really adding the colors and excitement to this race so far but sure, to be dropping Joaquin would have been the icing on the cake. Today, I was feeling better than yesterday and I put in all my power in every attempt to get away. Thanks to all the people who have come here today to support me. They truly move me when we are parting the sea of people going uphill. It was a real spectacle.’
The Vuelta continues after today’s rest day with Stage 17, 187.3km Santander to Fuente Dé and concludes in Madrid on September 9.