Froome's lead cut by Nibali as race for Vuelta glory reignited

Froome's lead cut by Nibali as race for Vuelta glory reignited

Contador did his best to reel in Denifl, but despite his best efforts, it was the Austrian who claimed the glory, while Froome was back in 14th and his overall lead cut to one minute, 16 seconds.

Spaniard Contador, aiming for a stage victory on his last Vuelta appearance, picked off several breakers, but Denifl - who had formed part of the initial breakaway group - finished 28 seconds ahead to secure a maiden stage win at Grand Tour level and secure Aqua Blue Sport a glorious triumph on their major bow.

Kelderman's reward for a fine performance was to move onto the podium in the overall classification, behind Froome and Nibali.

Froome remained confident of Vuelta victory despite the disappointing stage, in which he was unable to respond to attacks by Trek-Segafredo rider Contador and third-placed Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana). "I waited all La Vuelta for that day. Today, it took everything: head, heart and legs". The climb was flawless for me.

"I don't think anyone enjoys gradients over 25 per cent but that is just how it is and it's the same for all of us", said Froome of the final climb.

Aqua Blue's Austrian Stefan Denifl celebrates as he seals his team's first Vuelta stage victory
Aqua Blue's Austrian Stefan Denifl celebrates as he seals his team's first Vuelta stage victory

"I wasn't getting many time checks from the vehicle so didn't really know where I was", Froome told reporters. "There's just three days left and I hope we can get the job done".

Vuelta a Espana before stage 16 overall standings.

On the final rest day on Monday, he said: "To be a minute ahead of my closest rival is a good position to be in after two weeks of racing and going into the final week".

Tomorrow will see the riders tackle a 169km route from Suances to Santo Toribio de Liébana.