ANTEQUERA, Spain (AP) — Chris Froome crashed twice as rivals reduced his Spanish Vuelta lead in Stage 12 on Thursday, which was won by Lotto-Soudal rider Tomasz Marczynski.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome needed help from two Sky teammates to limit the time lost after he tumbled to the asphalt twice on the stage’s long, final descent when trying to respond to a surprise attack by Alberto Contador.
Vincenzo Nibali cut 20 seconds off Froome’s advantage and now trails by 59 seconds in second place.
“It’s never nice to crash like that. I am just grateful that I am not injured,” Froome said. “The Vuelta is not over, and a lot of big days are ahead. The race is not over until we reach Madrid.”
While Froome chased his title rivals, Marczynski clinched his second stage win of this edition. The Pole separated from the other breakaway riders on the way down from the second of two climbs in the hilly 160.1-kilometer (99.5-mile) ride from Montril to Antequera.
“It was my dream since I was a kid to win a stage at a big race all alone and today that dream came true,” Marczynski said after crossing the finish line in 3 hours, 56 minutes, 45 seconds, almost a minute ahead of Omar Fraile in second.
Froome has led the race since the third stage and had been looking unbeatable after increasing his gap day after day.
But the British rider showed his first signs of vulnerability under the southern Spanish sun when Contador decided to shake up the race. Contador, a three-time Vuelta winner, is set to retire after his home event and is launching attacks on almost every stage.
“I am just doing day to day, enjoying the Vuelta,” Contador said.
The Spaniard knocked 42 seconds off the difference with Froome, yet remained in ninth place at 3:13 back.
After his second fall in just a couple of minutes, Froome quickly connected with teammates Mikel Nieve and Wouter Poels and worked hard to recover as much ground as possible.
Froome said that the stage was relatively calm “until Contador attacked.”
“He did a good ride and gained some time today,” Froome said. “I was just focused on coming back to the group and I was very lucky to have two teammates with me.”
Esteban Chaves stayed in third place at 2:13 behind Froome.
Friday’s stage is a flat 198.4-kilometer (123.2-mile) ride from Coin to Tomares.
The three-week race ends on Sept. 10.
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