Froome effectively secures Tour-Vuelta double as Contador says victorious farewell
Chris Froome all but completed a Grand Tour double on Saturday after preserving his comfortable lead in the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Espana as Alberto Contador marked his professional cycling farewell with a magnificent victory.
Tour de France champion Froome went into stage 20 with a lead of one minute and 37 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali and that was never threatened on a gruelling 117.5 kilometre ride from Corvera de Asturias to the mountain finish up the Alto de L'Angliru.
Seven-time Grand Tour winner Contador was the man to produce an attack on a sodden highest-category climb to the finish.
And, while there was never any possibility of the Trek-Segafredo rider bridging his three minute and 34-second gap to Froome, Contador will retire from the sport on a high after likely securing the final stage win of his career and the first home victory of this year's Vuelta.
Contador finished 17 seconds ahead of Wout Poels and Froome as he demonstrated that, despite his impending exit from the sport, he still has the mettle to tackle the toughest ascents at the age of 34.
But it is Froome who will naturally take the headlines after becoming just the third man to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year.
Aided by team-mate Poels, Froome gained time on Bahrain-Merida's Nibali and heads into the final processional flat stage to Madrid with a two minute and 15-second lead over the Italian.
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
Contador gave his adoring fans a wonderful parting gift as he made his breakaway stick and lofted his arms as he crossed the line first.
Froome's victory sees him add a fifth Grand Tour crown to his glittering CV, but it is his first victory to have come away from the Tour de France.
It is a case of fourth time lucky for Froome, who had previously finished second in the general classification on three separate occasions.
While Froome effectively sealed the red jersey, Nibali fell away in the closing stages and will not add to the Vuelta crown he claimed seven years ago.
Froome also leads the points classification while Davide Villella is the King of the Mountains.
1. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) 3:31:33
2. Wout Poels (Team Sky) +00:17
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +00:17
4. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) +00:35
5. Floris De Tier (Lotto NL-Jumbo) +00:51
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 79:23:37
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +02:15
3. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +02:51
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 153 pts
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 128 pts
3. Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) 127 pts
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) 67 pts
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 47 pts
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 35 pts
Froome can take his foot off the gas and celebrate his phenomenal achievement with a final stage that starts in Arroyomolinos and goes through the heart of Madrid.