Froome narrows the gap in Spain

Chris Froome moved to within 19 seconds of the leader

Chris Froome moved to within 19 seconds of the leader

First published in National News © by

Chris Froome closed to within 19 seconds of race leader Alejandro Valverde at the Vuelta a Espana, despite crashing on Friday's seventh stage.

The Team Sky rider crashed just before tackling the first categorised climb on the 169 kilometres route from Alhendin to Alcaudete.

He needed bandaging on his right arm but, having initially fallen more than a minute adrift of the peloton, recovered to rejoin it and then leapt clear of the main group with a sprint finish to come home seventh and pick up valuable seconds.

Alessandro de Marchi won the stage, having led a four-strong breakaway, with Valverde of Movistar holding on to the red jersey, 15 seconds ahead of team-mate Nairo Quintana and 18 clear of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

De Marchi burst clear of the breakaway group in the closing kilometres, finishing ahead of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp). Hesjedal's general classification hopes took a huge blow with a poor showing on Thursday and the GC contenders were content to let him form part of the breakaway, which moved clear after 40km.

Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) crossed the line in third.

Froome's crash came as he approached the third-category Alto de Illora.

He required a bike change and a stop at the medical car before, with the help of his Sky team-mates, managing to rejoin the pack.

After the race he reported no major ill-effects.

"I'm feeling okay," Froome told www.teamsky.com. "But you definitely get the feeling that when bad luck comes it comes more than once.

"But all things considered I'm feeling all right and I think I got off relatively unscathed. It's good to have another day behind us now.

"When the crash happened a Giant-Shimano rider went down in front of me just to my left. I swerved to try and avoid that and went down. Then the guys paced me back. It took us a good 15km before we got back into the peloton.

"The rest of the guys did a great job looking after me, pacing me back into the race and keeping me in a good position for the rest of the day."

Given the drama of the stage, Froome was delighted to move three seconds closer to Valverde.

"I'll definitely take that after a stage like today," he said. "At the end of the race you might need all the seconds you can to defend your place. I'll keep chipping away and get closer to the time trial."

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