Alberto Contador lands a seemingly decisive punch

Stage 16 of this year’s Vuelta a Espana will forever be remembered for the feeble pattycake slapfest that took place between Gianluca Brambilla and Ivan Rovny, who were riding in the break. I still don’t know what they were arguing about – Brambilla may have grown sick of Rovny not taking turns on the front – but it was quite impressive that they found the energy to swing at each other while scaling a mountain pass, even if the fighting itself wasn’t too impressive.

I think even I’d fancy my chances against this pair.

They both got slat off the race. Possibly for being just too embarrassing to watch.

What about the racing?

Yes, after that emaciatedchildweight bout we had to make do with the cycling and it was fairly successful but paradoxically dispiriting day for Chris Froome.

A long day in the mountains perhaps favoured Froome’s diesel engine more than other stages and he therefore attacked on the final climb when everyone was already cream crackered. Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez couldn’t follow, but Alberto Contador could.

So Froome gained time on two major rivals, but there was an inevitability about what followed. At some point in the next few kilometres, Froome will have realised that he wasn’t going to shed Contador and that the Spaniard, sheltering behind him and not riding on the front for even a moment, would almost certainly have the energy to go past him at the finish. His best day was therefore also the day when it became fairly firmly established that he would not win overall.

Sure enough, Contador went past with about a kilometre to go and the gangly, lipless Kenyan/South African/Brit couldn’t follow. If the gap ended up being only 15 seconds, the direction of that gap was what mattered. When can Froome possibly expect to recover that time?

Stage 17

A rest day first and then a flatty for whatever sprinters remain. Nacer Bouhanni and Peter Sagan are not among them, having dropped out to rest a bit before the World Championships.