Chris Froome timed his final effort perfectly on day three at the Vuelta a Espana to finish fourth and move up to third overall.
Froome was briefly distanced on the final ascent up the brutal Mirador de Ézaro climb – just two kilometres, but with an average gradient of 14% – yet he paced himself back to the GC group containing Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Ruben Fernandez (all Movistar) and he was able to distance Quintana on the line, gaining six seconds on the Colombian.
Froome said after the race: “The climb can definitely catch you out if you start too fast. It’s easy to think that at only 1.8km you can get a bit carried away at the bottom and I think a few guys fell into that trap and paid for it in the final 500m. I was quite happy with how that went for me.
“I was trying to ride at my own pace. At the bottom I got gapped a bit from the leaders but kept pedalling away, trying to get back to the front. It’s seven minutes long, but for a short climb… you know about it. It’s similar to the Mur du Huy, but longer I guess.”
He was quick to praise the work of his team-mates, including the red jersey holder Michal Kwiatkowski.
He added: “The guys did a really good job getting me into a good final position. I’ve a lot of respect for those guys, [Michal] Kwiatkowski and Pete [Kennaugh], they were obviously on the same time as me, but they’ve been great team-mates, sacrificing themselves. I was quite pleased with how the legs felt and for day three I’m happy with the overall standings.”
Looking ahead, Froome outlined his plans for the rest of the race: “Staying out of trouble, choosing my moments, and hopefully ride into the race a little bit. Obviously the time trial at the end is going to be a key stage for me. That’s a stage I’m focusing on. For now, I’m just trying to stay out of trouble.”
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