MADRID (Reuters) - Chris Froome moved closer to winning the Vuelta a Espana title after coming second in the high mountain Stage 11 on Wednesday and opening up a gap of one minute 19 seconds in the general classification.
Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez won the stage, his first victory in a grand tour, to move into the top 10 at the expense of Ireland’s Nicolas Roche, who began the day third overall 36 seconds off the pace but ended it 4:45 behind Froome.
The Briton made up time in the gruelling stage from Lorca to Calar Alto in Andalusia - which featured 3,490 metres of climbing and finished 2,120 metres above sea level - with a late dash from the back to the front of the chasing pack behind Lopez.
Froome beat Dutchman Wilco Kelderman and Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali to finish 14 seconds behind Lopez and take a six second bonus in his bid to become the first rider since 1978 to win La Vuelta and the Tour de France in the same year.
Nibali overtook Esteban Chaves as Froome’s nearest challenger and moved into second place overall, with the Colombian dropping from 36 seconds behind Froome before the stage to 2:33 adrift in third.
“I’m very happy with the outcome today. I think it was a very selective day for the general classification, and to finish second, I couldn’t have asked for much more than that other than a stage victory,” four-times Tour de France champion Froome told reporters.
“When Lopez went, he was extremely strong and at the top, I figured for me the most important thing was going to be to follow Vincenzo and to stay with the real favourites.”
Stage winner Lopez added: “It was a very complicated stage with the rain, which made it even more exhausting, but I’m really happy because the team has worked so well through the Vuelta.
“This is a big achievement. In the end we found ourselves with good legs, and I knew a bit of the final part so I was relaxed. I preferred to wait to attack until the last one or one and a half kilometres, which were really hard.”
Reporting by Richard Martin,; Editing by Ed Osmond