Vuelta a Espana: Mixed fortunes for Chris Froome as Alessandro De Marchi wins stage 7
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 30/08/14 2:04pm
Chris Froome gained two seconds on his rivals but also suffered a heavy crash on a seventh stage of mixed fortunes at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Team Sky leader fell inside the opening 40km on the first of the day’s two categorised climbs, requiring him to chase back on to the peloton and then receive bandaging to cuts on his right arm and knee.
Although it triggered memories of his crash at the Tour de France, he recovered sufficiently enough to sprint ahead of the main bunch at the finish in Alcaudete and cross the line two seconds before of all of his fellow contenders for overall victory.
Alejandro Valverde finished in the peloton to retain the leader’s red jersey and remains 15 seconds ahead of second-placed Nairo Quintana and 18 seconds in front of third-placed Alberto Contador, but Froome is now just 20 seconds adrift in fourth.
Breakaway rider Alessandro De Marchi claimed a fine solo victory after riding away from his three fellow escapees in the closing kilometres, beating second-placed Ryder Hesjedal and third-placed Hubert Dupont by 1min 35sec.
'Got off relatively unscathed'
Froome told teamsky.com: "I'm feeling OK, but you definitely get the feeling that when bad luck comes, it comes more than once. But all things considered, I'm feeling all right and I think I got off relatively unscathed. It's good to have another day behind us now.
"When the crash happened, a Giant-Shimano rider went down in front of me just to my left. I swerved to try and avoid that and went down. Then the guys paced me back. It took us a good 15km before we got back into the peloton.”
Of the two seconds he gained on his rivals, Froome added: "I will definitely take that after a stage like today. At the end of the race you might need all the seconds you can to defend your place. I will keep chipping away and get closer to the time trial."
The 169km stage looked set to be a day for punchy sprinters, but a breakneck speed early on caused tension in the peloton and Froome was one of several riders who crashed on the ascent of Alto de Illora.
Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb, who won stages four and five, also hit the deck, while Orica-GreenEdge’s Ivan Santaromita was forced to quit the race after breaking a finger.
Things finally settled down when De Marchi (Cannondale), Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Johann Tschopp (IAM Cycling) were allowed to form a four-man breakaway and build up a lead of over seven and a half minutes.
Trek Factory Racing and Lampre-Merida combined to cut the advantage back to under four minutes with 25km to go and although it momentarily looked like the catch was still possible, the general classification teams soon moved to the head of the peloton and knocked off the pace to ensure the escapees had their day.
Not wanting to risk slowing down, the breakaway riders kept pushing on, but it came at a cost, as first Dupont dropped away with 15km remaining and then Hesjedal crashed as he entered a left-hand corner too fast 14km out.
De Marchi and Tschopp were initially unsure whether to wait, but after a few seconds of indecision, De Marchi motored on again, distancing his only remaining colleague and comfortably seeing out the biggest win of his career.
Stage seven result
1 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale, 4:01:52
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp, +1:35
3 Hubert Dupont (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, same time
4 Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling, st
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing, +2:17
6 Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp, st
7 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +2:18
8 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +2:20
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, st
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, 26:52:20
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +15
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +18
4 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +20
5 Johan Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge, +44
6 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) +45
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +55
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +58
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, +1:09
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, +1:12