Brit won yesterday’s individual time trial but appeared to be sluggish as he headed up one of the Tour of Spain’s toughest climbs that was so steep even the camera bikes stalled
CHRIS FROOME says he is still on course for Vuelta a Espana glory — despite seeing his lead slashed.
The Team Sky ace, 32, was dropped by his rivals on a brutal stage 17 climb to Los Machucos.
Froome lost 42 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali as his lead over the Italian was cut to 1min 16sec.
But the Brit, 32, said: “It’s still a great position to be in and we can get the job done.
“With three days of racing left, I’m feeling good.
“It was a typical Vuelta summit finish, no one enjoys gradients over 25 per cent.”
The four-time Tour de France champ is still favourite to do a Grand Tour double but is set to come under more attacks before the finish in Madrid.
Froome had to be guided across the line by team-mate Mikel Nieve on the five mile climb to the finish, crossing in 14th spot.
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The gradients were over 30 per cent in some places and were so steep even the camera bikes were stalling.
Froome had won the previous stage in a 25-mile individual time trial on Tuesday.
Austrian Stefan Denifl won the stage, with Froome 14th as he hunts a Vuelta and Tour de France season double.
Dutch ace Wilco Kelderman made up 27sec on the Brit and sits third.
Denifl’s team Aqua Blue Sport had their bus burnt out in a sickening arson attack earlier in the race on their Grand Tour debut.
TOUR IS BLIGHTED
TEAM SKY’s Elia Viviani regained the Tour of Britain lead after finishing second to Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria in stage four in Newark.
Brit Geraint Thomas is a hot favourite for today’s individual time trial in Essex.
But fans were left horrified as American Brent Bookwalter went head-first through the rear window of a parked car, forcing him to abandon the race.
Organisers confirmed they were investigating why the vehicle was parked in on the race route.