Contador frustrated but retains lead in Tour of Spain

Sun Sep 7, 2014 3:11pm EDT
 
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LAGOS DE COVADONGA Spain (Reuters) - Poland's Przemyslaw Niemiec won the 15th stage of the Tour of Spain as Alberto Contador moved further ahead of Britain's Chris Froome at the end of a grueling final ascent on Sunday.

Spaniard Contador, who retained the overall leader's red jersey, battled against the negative tactics of Alejandro Valverde, second overall, and Joaquim Rodriguez to finish a few seconds behind his two compatriots.

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider attacked time and again in the final climb - a 12.2-km ascent at an average gradient of 7.2 per cent to Lagos De Covadonga.

But Rodriguez and Valverde refused to cooperate to get rid of Froome, who was struggling a few meters behind.

The Briton limited the damage and still lies third overall, 1:20 behind Contador after losing seven seconds to the Spaniard at the end of Sunday's 152.2-km ride.

"At the end of the day he actually lost time to Valverde and Rodriguez but he gained time on Froome," said Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Tristan Hoffman.

"It was a difficult situation tactically but I think he managed the situation very well. Tomorrow, there's another big day in the mountains and we'll do everything we can to maintain the lead."

Frenchman Warren Barguil was the first to shake off a small group of favorites in the final climb but it was Contador who went hard in the final six kilometers.

Froome, who was yo-yoing at the back, appeared to crack several times but always managed to fight his way back, never losing sight of Contador.   Continued...