Brit set to add Tour of Spain title to the Tour de France he won in July and join pantheon of cycling legends as first winner of two Grand Tours since Bernard Hinault in 1978
CHRIS FROOME put one wheel into the pantheon of cycling’s greatest as he successfully defended his lead on the final climb of the Vuelta a Espana.
And it was no mean feat, as the Tour de France winner ground up the mountain monster known as Angliru, finishing third on the day behind retiring stage winner Alberto Contador.
Team Sky ace Froome now takes a 2min 15sec lead to Madrid, finishing 17sec behind Contador on stage 20, as team-mate Wout Poels was second.
The slope is known as one of Europe’s most fearsome climbs, with gradients of 23 per cent and a brutal average of 10.9 per cent over 7.7 miles.
Froome was given a boost when his main rival, Vincenzo Nibali, slipped off the road on the final greasy downhill of the race.
Nibali is known as one of the best descenders in he world, but his balance let him down, before his rivals allowed him to remount and get back on.
And after the journey down, Froome dropped the Italian with 2km and a few hairpins to go on the way back up.
The 32-year-old is unlikely to to lose the Red Jersey now, with a final circuit ride in Madrid to come.
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He’s the first ever Brit to win two Grand Tours and the first to achieve the feat clean since Bernard Hinault in 1978.
Froome came into the stage with a 1min 37sec lead over Nibali, with rivals Wilco Kelderman, Ilnur Zakarin and Contador all with outside chances of overtaking him on general classification.
The Sky star had won two stages previously in the race, clinching the mountain-top leg into Cumbre del Sol on stage nine, before claiming individual time trial victory into Logrono.
That was the platform for his healthy lead going into the last but one stage of the race, with a strong team around him.
Contador was determined to go for the stage win on one of Europe’s toughest climbs, having won La Vuelta in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
But at one point he was clipped by a fan, but he made a massive surge with 5.4km to go.
The controversial Spaniard had 20 months worth of results voided for a doping offence up to February 2012, blaming traces clenbuterol on eating dodgy meat.
But in his final Grand Tour, he has been the darling of the Spanish roads and Froome – as in France – the enemy.
Froome had ridden this stage in 2011, when he was deputising Bradley Wiggins up the Angliru, but the 2012 Tour winner cracked in the leader’s jersey.
He then let the up-and-coming star Froome loose up the killer slope, but he ended up finishing fourth on the day and second in the final GC to Juan Jose Cobo, by only 13sec.
Chris Froome at Tour de France vs Vuelta a Espana
Tour de France
Vuelta a Espana
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