Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome thwarts Nairo Quintana on stage 14
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 04/09/16 2:32pm
Chris Froome chased down six attacks from Nairo Quintana to preserve his 54-second deficit to the Vuelta a Espana leader on a mountainous 14th stage won by breakaway rider Robert Gesink.
Quintana (Movistar) produced a relentless display of aggression on the special-category climb to the summit finish on the Col d'Aubisque in the French Pyrenees, but an increasingly strong Froome (Team Sky) never looked in danger of being dropped and remains second in the general classification.
The big mover of the day was Froome's compatriot Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), who jumped from seventh to fourth overall, 2min 17sec down on Quintana, after a bold but brilliantly executed attack with 40km to go.
Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) is up one place to third overall, 2min 1sec down, partly thanks to a late attack but mainly because Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lost more than nine minutes to his rivals on the stage and has plummeted from the final step on the podium to 19th.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) also suffered a chastening day, dropping one place to sixth and losing another 20 seconds to Quintana after being distanced with just over 3km to go.
Quintana's inability to drop Froome was a major blow to his hopes of overall victory.
He has predicted he will need a gap of at least three minutes over the Briton going into stage 19's 37km individual time trial if he is to hold on to the race lead, but with the pair now equally matched in the mountains following Quintana's earlier superiority, Froome appears to be favourite to win the red jersey.
Yates, meanwhile, has put himself firmly in the hunt for a place on the podium with a superb display on what was described as the hardest Grand Tour stage of the year.
He surged out of the peloton close to the top of the day's third of four climbs and then pulled away on the ascent of the Aubisque, finishing 1min 8sec ahead of Froome and Quintana and 1min 28sec ahead of Contador.
Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) formed part of the day's 41-man breakaway and went on to beat Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) into second place by seven seconds and Egor Silin (Katusha) into third by nine seconds.
The Vuelta continues on Sunday with a 118.5km 15th stage starting in Sabinanigo and ending with a category-one summit finish on Aramon Formigal. Find out more about the route in our race guide and follow the action with our live blog from 3.30pm BST.
Stage 14 result
1 Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, 5:43:24
2 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ.fr, +7sec
3 Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha, +9
4 George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo, +31
5 Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +39
6 Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, +49
7 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +1;11
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac, +1:14
9 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange, same time
10 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky, +1:16
12 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +1:47
13 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
19 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, +2:07
1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, 58:41:40
2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +54sec
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange, +2:01
4 Simon Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +2:17
5 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky, +2:38
6 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, +3:28
7 Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing, +3:59
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac, +4:30
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana, +5:37
10 Daniel Moreno (Esp) Movistar, +5:52