Froome wins stage, Cobo keeps Vuelta lead
Updated: September 07, 2011, 13:26
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PENA CABARGA, Spain (AP) British rider Christopher Froome won the 17th stage of the Vuelta on Wednesday, beating overall leader Juan Jose Cobo in a back-and-forth duel on a grueling final uphill climb.
Froome pushed ahead of Cobo in the last yards of the 131-mile mountain stage to finish in 4 hours, 52 minutes, 38 seconds. The Spanish rider was just 1 second behind.
Froome began the Vuelta supporting Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins, but now has a shot at his first race title after reducing Cobo's lead to 13 seconds.
Cobo, a native of the local Cantabria region, maintained the overall leader's jersey for the third straight day.
"I suffered a lot, I thought there was a moment I could lose the lead,'' Cobo said. "I fell behind and didn't know if I could catch up, but at the end I was able to get the energy from I don't know where.''
The recent mountain stages have shed the other contenders. Wiggins is now 1:41 back, and defending champion Vicenzo Nibali is 4:31 off Cobo's pace.
Thursday's 18th stage is a 108.5-mile ride from Solares to the Atlantic coastal town of Noja.
The 21-stage race then returns to the Basque country for the first time in 33 years before closing in Madrid on Sunday.