Monday 21 May 2018

Froome counts cost as Quintana springs surprise attack

Chris Froome crosses the line over 2mins 30sec behind the red jersey. Photo: Getty
Chris Froome crosses the line over 2mins 30sec behind the red jersey. Photo: Getty

Richard Martin

Chris Froome's hopes of becoming the first rider in 38 years to win the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the same year were hit by an audacious tactical breakaway by Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana in yesterday's stage 15, which saw the Team Sky rider finish two minutes 40 seconds adrift of winner Gianluca Brambilla.

Quintana tightened his grip on the red jersey by coming second, three seconds behind Brambilla, stretching his lead over Froome in the general classification from 54 seconds to 3:37. Colombian Johan Esteban Chaves remains third, a further 20 sec behind Froome, while Contador jumped from sixth to fourth and within sight of a podium finish.

Quintana and Froome had completed the last two stages together, but it quickly became clear that yesterday's race from Sabinanigo to Sallent de Gallego would be different.

Quintana and Contador attempted various early attacks before forming a breakaway group within the first 10km of the 118.5km stage.

Froome was left in a reduced group with Chaves, which slipped further and further behind the breakaway, while a larger group containing most of Team Sky was cut well adrift.

Three-time Vuelta winner Contador eventually trailed off towards the finish, coming home 34 seconds behind Brambilla in sixth place.

Watch: Adorable scenes as Chris Froome celebrates Tour de France victory with his young son

"We knew it was a short stage, so at the start of the day everyone wanted to attack," Brambilla said. "We were with the red jersey within the breakaway, so we weren't sure, but I knew that I was in good shape.

"I started to believe in the victory 10km from the finish. I saw Contador was starting to fade and I had to follow Nairo. I knew that he was looking for time and if I sat in, it was general classification for Quintana and the stage for me."

A group of 91 riders finished over 53 minutes behind Brambilla, 22 minutes outside the time limit, but the race jury used their discretion to allow them all remain in the race, which continues with today's 156km stage from Alcaniz to Peniscola, ahead of tomorrow's second and final rest day.

Meanwhile, Andre Greipel won the opening stage of the Tour of Britain as Mark Cavendish fell in a crash on the final corner.

The German takes the leader's yellow jersey one second ahead of An Post-Chain Reaction's Jasper Bovenhuis, who capped an impressive day for the Irish team by claiming the sprints jersey after getting into the day's five-man breakaway alongside team-mate Emiel Wastyn.

"I could not have asked for a better start to the tour," said An Post boss Kurt Bogaerts. "Jasper and Emiel rode like champions today and were rewarded with the jersey for Bovenhuis.

"It would have been nice for Emiel to get 'most combative' after all his attacks, but that was not to be. It was also great to see all our riders in the first group across the line. Let us see what happens over the next few days"

The 161.5km stage from Glasgow to Castle Douglas saw a tactical sprint finish won by Lotto-Soudal's Greipel, who powered to his fifth Tour of Britain victory in a time of 3hrs, 52mins and 40secs, ahead of Orica-BikeExchange's Caleb Ewan and Team Giant-Alpecin's Ramon Sinkeldam.

The day's breakaway worked well and provided Bovenhuis with the platform to take maximum points at the three Yodel Sprints in Glasgow, Kilmarnock and Dalmellington.

Wastyn attempted to get away on a solo attack, but the break was eventually caught in the final 10km and with Cavendish and Team Sky's Elia Viviani casualties on the final corner, Greipel was perfectly placed to streak through and claim the yellow jersey.

An Post's Dutch sprinter Bovenhuis finished in 12th, while Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) and Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) finished safely in the main bunch.

"It's really nice to start off this Tour of Britain with a victory and now we reached our goal for the first day and everything else is on top," said Greipel

"I've done six weeks of training after the Tour de France and this race is really important towards the next goal (October's Road World Championships)."

Irish Independent

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