It’s just morbid curiosity which compels me to watch Chris Froome (Sky & Monaco/England/South Africa/Kenya) these days – he climbs like a stick insect with Saint Vitus Dance.
It upsets me; but distressing or not, it gets him up them hills, albeit in his own mystifying style – off the back, off the front…
But it was the former at the top of Covadonga where the Valverde (Movistar & Spain) and Rodriguez (Katusha and Catalonia) tandem put time into Froome and red jersey Contador (Tinkoff and Spain) – albeit not a lot of time but enough to make us wonder if Valverde just might be ‘the man.’
Riding more conservatively than of late he cut Alberto’s GC lead back to just 31 seconds, courtesy the time he gained on the final ramp and his time bonus for second spot.
But the day belonged to the big man whose name joins those of Lejaretta, Delgado, Millar, Herrera, Jalabert and Tonkov on the Lagos de Covadonga role of honour – Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre & Poland.)
The strong 34 year-old from Malopolskie has been a pro for 14 seasons, spending his first three seasons – 2001/2/3 with low budget Amore & Vita, winning in Citadello in ‘03.
He spent the next six years with another team with limited resources – Miche, with whom he won in Rio Salceto in ’04, the Tour of Slovenia in ’05, the Tour of Tuscany in 2006 along with a Route du Sud stage, in 2008 he won another Sud stage, and another in ’09 as well as the overall in the race and the Polish Hill Climb Championship.
He arrived at Lampre in 2010 winning stages in the Coppi-Bartali and Tour of the Pyrenees; in 2011 he took a brace of quality sixth places – in Piemonte and Lombardia; 2012 saw him top 15 in the Vuelta and last year he was top ten on GC in Tirreno, Catalonia, Trentino and the Giro.
This year he was third on GC in Trentino and fifth in Poland – in other words, he’s a handy boy.
When I saw him stuffing food into his mouth on the approach to the Lagos I thought to myself; ‘this boy is serious.’
It’s been a great Vuelta for Lampre with two memorable stage wins; the team is old school, Lampre are a wealthy family who run a steel business and aren’t in it just for the column inches having been in cycling sponsorship as long ago as 1991 with the Colnago-Lampre team.
Fabio Aru (Astana & Sardinia) again demonstrated his character, refusing to give up and fighting, fighting up the climb – if he can resist the sports cars and night clubs we could be writing about his first Grand Tour win before too long.
Not a great day for QuickStep’s Colombian Rigoberto Uran, though dropping nigh on a minute.
But Dan Martin (Garmin & Ireland – or is it Brum) displayed great character, as did his team, fighting back after a crash to finish seventh on the day.
It looks like the end is nigh for Asturia’s own Sammy Sanchez (BMC), though – he looked utterly spent at the line and he must be dreading tomorrow’s ‘Queen Stage’ to the top of the first cat. La Farrapona by way of another four first cat. climbs and 159 K.
Will it be Froome’s day – or maybe Valverde?
But one thing is sure.
To get their hands on it, they’ll have to prize that red jersey off Alberto’s boney shoulders with their bare hands…