22 Aug 2017

Froome takes red in La Vuelta

7:22 am on 22 August 2017

British cyclist Chris Froome has taken over the lead of the Vuelta A Espana after finishing third in the mountainous stage three.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome Photo: Photosport

Froome is bidding to become the first rider to claim the double crowns of the Tour de France and the Vuelta in almost 40 years.

Froome has a two second overall lead but it was Italian Vincenzo Nibali who snatched the stage win in the final 400m of the Spainish grand tour in the Pyrenees in Andorra.

George Bennett is the best placed of the New Zealand riders - he's back in 93rd place 16 minutes off the lead.

Froome set the stage alight with a vicious pace on the final climb of the 158.5 km stage, chaperoned by team mate Gianni Moscon, although he was eventually caught on the descent.

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali Photo: photosport

The Briton takes a two-second lead in the general classification over Spaniard David de la Cruz, Irishman Nicolas Roche and American Tejay Van Garderen, while Nibali, who won the Vuelta in 2010, is fifth, 10 seconds behind the four-time Tour de France champion.

"It's a great surprise but I think it's the result of a lot of hard work today from my team mates as well," said Froome.

"They did a fantastic job on the final climb. Especially a guy like Gianni Moscon - it's his first Grand Tour with Team Sky. He was great today, as were the rest of the guys."

Froome got to wear the Vuelta's red jersey for only the second time, the first since he upstaged Bradley Wiggins with a shock win in the individual time trial in 2011 and took the cycling world by storm in coming second in the general classification.

Froome recalled his 2011 performance when explaining why he had pushed so hard in stage three.

"I've lost a Vuelta before by 13 seconds so I'm going to fight for every second I can at this point," he said.

"It's been a long time (without wearing the red jersey). It feels amazing to put it back on and to be in this position. It's something I've thought about for a long time and obviously I worked hard to be here after the Tour, so I'm really happy to be in this position."

Frenchman Axel Domont took a 25-second lead over the escapees and a 4:40 lead over the peloton into the final 50km but his advantage rapidly eroded in the second climb.

Sky surged ahead in the final climb, led by Moscon with Froome on his wheel, with fellow general classification contenders Fabio Aru, Daniel Chaves and Nibali close behind although Alberto Contador was unable to sustain the pace.

The Spaniard trails Froome by 3:10, all but blowing his chance of an overall win in his final professional race before retirement.

Froome led at the top of the climb with Chaves on his wheel but the pair were soon caught by Romain Bardet and Aru on the descent, with Nibali and Roche joining them in the final 700m.

Roche made a futile attempt at breakaway as Froome slowed, but Nibali timed his attack to perfection to take the stage and 10 bonus seconds. De La Cruz finished second, taking six bonus seconds along with Froome.

Three other New Zealand riders are competing in the race - Tom Scully who's in 160th place, Sam Bewley in 165th place and Aaron Gate in 169th place.

The Vuelta moves into Spain in tomorrow's stage, 198.2km route from Escaldes-Engordany in Andorra to Tarragona, Catalonia.