Chris Froome. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER
Chris Froome. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

Chris Froome’s Vuelta a Espana lead was cut by 42sec to 1min 16sec over Vincenzo Nibali as Austrian Stefan Denifl claimed a stunning win on Wednesday’s 17th stage.

Denifl attacked out of a breakaway with 5km to go to hold off a brave chase by Alberto Contador to win a brutal, mountainous 180.5km stage from Villadiego Los Machucos in 4hr 48min 52min.

Contador was 28sec back to aid his chances of making the general classification podium with Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez 1min 04sec down in third place.

Froome has looked assured in his bid to become just the third rider to win the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same year. But he seemed to pay for his efforts in winning Tuesday’s time trial as he cracked on the final climb and could not stay with Nibali. The Italian finished alongside Lopez in fourth, with Froome down in 14th.

"I don’t think anyone enjoys gradients over 25%, but that’s just how it is and it’s the same for all of us," said Froome.

The Briton has three more stages to defend his lead before Sunday’s parade around Madrid, with the queen stage up the Alto de l’Angliru on Saturday.

AFP

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