(Reuters) - Britain’s Chris Froome won his first stage of this year’s Tour of Spain on Wednesday, edging out overall leader Nairo Quintana in an attack in the last 500 meters of the steep finish at Pena Cabarga.
The Sky rider’s win allowed the three-time Tour de France winner to leapfrog Alejandro Valverde into second place in the general classification. The Spanish Movistar rider came in third in the 11th stage, six seconds back.
Colombian Quintana, who also races for Movistar, retained the lead, 54 seconds ahead of Froome while Valverde is 1 minute and 5 seconds adrift.
Froome, bronze medalist in the time trial at the Olympics in Rio, was delighted to have won the stage, conquering the same peak that he also won in the 2011 Vuelta, where he finished second.
The 31-year-old, who is looking to clinch a Tour and Vuelta double, told Spanish TVE: ”I had special memories from 2011. It’s an incredible feeling. Quintana is really strong at the moment. He has the leader’s jersey. I‘m just trying to do as much as I can day by day. Obviously I can get closer to him.
“After the season I’ve had, it’s a bit tough at the moment so I want to thank my team mates and my family for the support.”
Following Tuesday’s rest day, the 168.6 km ride race, which started in Colunga, began at a high pace, with the average speed in the opening two hours at 46.6 kph.
“Froome was faster than I was at the end,” Quintana told TVE. “I keep thinking he is very strong and we will have to be careful because we have difficult stages ahead.”
Thursday’s stage is a 193.2 km ride from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao. The race finishes on Sept. 11 in Madrid.
Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Alison Williams