Today Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) showed off the yellow jersey in the Vuelta a España.
That’s to say he showed his Tour grit, tenacity and mental toughness in closing the gap at the very summit of Mas de la Costa after been distanced by race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Esteban Chavez (Orica-BikeExchange).
The climb was tagged as hellish with gradients up to 20% but after initially fading as Contador put in an attack, Froome did what he often seems to do in these situations — dig deep and slowly, agonizingly crawl he way back onto the wheel.
In doing so, he avoided the knockout blow that Quintana had hoped to land. Already 3;37 behind the Colombian with few stages left to cut the deficit, Froome kept his slim chances of overall victory intact.
“It was a typical brutal climb up to the finish, a typical Vuelta climb, with really steep ramps,” said Froome. “But it was just about pacing and trying to ride within myself, but also keeping an eye on the main contenders.” And an eye on the clock as Froome was able to close the gap just near the line and finish with his rivals. He remains in second place, 20 seconds ahead of Chavez.
That steady mental toughness gives him a psychological advantage over most riders, even champions like Contador and Quintana. “I’ve definitely got a different approach to most guys, I do try not to let it affect me when I see my rivals riding away and distancing me,” said Froome.
The South African is able to avoid the demoralizing effects of those situations and keep plugging away. “I think a lot of people do get disheartened in that sort of position, maybe that is a strength I do have, I try to keep motivated and try to keep pacing myself.” On Mas de la Costa, that strategy worked out well.”
So all is not lost and that qualifies as a temporary victory in Spain. After the stage, Froome was already looking ahead to the next showdown. “The legs felt alright. For me personally, I am thinking about the day after tomorrow, the time trial.” He didn’t crack today but perhaps again the clock he can crack Quintana.