Team Sky’s Chris Froome is set for an historic victory in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.
Froome maintained his overall lead by finishing third on Saturday’s Stage 20, which was won by Alberto Contador in his final race. The action-packed stage saw a battle through tough weather conditions up to the finish on L’Angliru, regarded as one of the toughest climbs in the sport.
The 32-year-old leads Vincenzo Nibali by 2 minutes 15 seconds and is now set to complete a Tour de France / Vuelta a Espana ‘double’. His historic achievement will be sealed on Sunday when the peloton completes the largely ceremonial final stage into Madrid.
Froome will become only the third rider ever to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in the same year after Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978). Froome will become the first rider ever to achieve the ‘double’ since the Vuelta moved in the calendar to become the last of each year’s three Grand Tours in 1995.
Competing in the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, Froome will have completed over 6800km / 4200 miles of racing across 42 stages through Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Andorra and Spain.
After more than 160 hours of racing his combined margin of victory is expected to be just over three minutes.
Froome has previously finished 2nd on three occasions at the Vuelta a Espana, including in the 2011 edition, where he made his breakthrough as a Grand Tour rider. He will be the first British rider to win the Vuelta a Espana.
“It’s an amazing feeling. The team has just been incredible over the last few months. It’s meant so much to me, the way they have supported us. I owe a massive thank you to all my teammates.
“I have to say that is probably the toughest Grand Tour I’ve ever ridden. There was something different happening every day. I’ve had good days and then I’ve been lying on the ground, bleeding, thinking my race might be over. It’s been a rollercoaster – absolutely relentless. It’s a relief now to finish and to be getting to Madrid.
“I think it probably is my greatest achievement, being the first person to win the Tour de France and then go on to win the Vuelta.
On today’s stage, and Alberto Contador’s victory, Froome said:
“L’Angliru is such a brutal climb, so congratulations to Alberto (Contador) for finishing off the way he did. That was an amazing way to end a career. He was just too strong for us today”.