Fabio Aru is a grooved rider

Fabio Aru won his second stage of this year’s Vuelta and was followed over the line by exactly the same four riders as last time – albeit in a different order. But if Aru’s emergence this season is one story, it’s that of a minor character. Today’s main protagonist was Chris Froome.

Doggystyle

Froomedog has been something of a puppy this year, but in the Vuelta he appears to be adding more bite to his bark with every passing dia. He did what Grand Tour contenders always do and attacked on the final climb. Aru had attacked a little earlier, but Froome soon caught him and pretty much towed him to the finish, where the Italian thanked him with a perfectly understandable mugging.

Behind, the Spanish triumvirate were playing a game of brinkmanship to see who’d chase. Would it be Alberto Contador, with Froome being the only man he fears? Would it be Alejandro Valverde, only a single second ahead of Froome after the Sky man took a two-second bonus at an intermediate sprint? Or would it be Joaquim Rodriguez, keen for a stage win having seemingly accepted that he won’t make the podium?

Contador held firm and Valverde never does any bloody work, so it was left to Rodriguez. Perhaps a little pissed off, Purito opted to carry out the chase by attacking himself. It narrowed the gap considerably, but he couldn’t shed his two passengers. Even so, Froome still emerged 20 seconds better off at the end of the day once bonuses had been taken into account.

Can he close 1m19s in the remaining stages to take the win? Probably not, but the fact that he has even an outside chance means this is a blinding Grand Tour – easily the best of the year.

Carlos Betancur watch

20 minutes down on the day and still second-to-last overall. On a similar note, I discovered that Cadel Evans was still in the race today. Who knew? He’s 49th – 1h46m back.

Stage 19

Probably not a general classification day, but it could be an interesting race for the stage win with the final climb 15km from the finish. Here’s the profile.