Britain’s Chris Froome indicated that he hopes to win his first Vuelta a Espana in almost wire-to-wire fashion after retaining the leader’s red jersey in a sweltering fourth stage on Tuesday.
Froome signalled his intention by staying near the front of the peloton on the approach to the finish in Tarragona and crossing the line 17th, taking the same time as stage winner Matteo Trentin.
That ensured he retained a two-second lead in the general classification, with a 10 second advantage on his closest expected title challenger, Vincenzo Nibali, and more than 30 seconds on fellow rivals Fabio Aru, Adam Yates, Simon Yates and Romain Bardet.
Froome claimed the yellow jersey early and spent most of the race in the lead on his way to a fourth Tour de France crown earlier this summer, and the 32-year-old is determined to fight from the front again.
“I’m not going to give anything away,” said Froome, who is bidding to become just the third man to win the Tour and Vuelta in the same season.
“We’re definitely going to fight to keep the jersey as long as we can, and wherever we can – bonus seconds, finishes. There are certainly not going to be any gifts in this Vuelta.”
Froome seized the red jersey in Monday’s first mountain stage in Andorra. He had last led the Vuelta in 2011 when, like last year, he finished the race as runner-up.
“It was a good day and a great feeling to be back in red after six years,” he added. “It’s a huge privilege to be in this position. I’m just taking it one day at a time at the moment. It was just about enjoying being in the red jersey today.”
Italian Trentin landed a second win of this year’s Vuelta for Quick-Step Floors in a sprint at the end of a largely flat 198km stage that played out in temperatures of up to 38C.