Vuelta a Espana: Chris Froome's victory hopes dented by Nairo Quintana

Gianluca Brambilla wins from Nairo Quintana
Quintana (in red) may have finished second to Brambilla but he made a big move towards winning the Vuelta

Chris Froome's hopes of winning a first Vuelta a Espana suffered a blow when he finished two minutes and 40 seconds behind leader Nairo Quintana.

The Team Sky rider missed the day's breakaway, which featured Quintana, and the Colombian went on to finish second on the 118km 15th stage to Formigal.

Froome now trails Quintana by three minutes 37 seconds, although one of the remaining six stages is a time trial which will suit the Briton more.

Gianluca Brambilla won Sunday's stage.

The Italian was part of the early break and was content to be paced to the finish by Quintana - with the Colombian looking to put as much time into Froome as he could - before emerging from the overall leader's slipstream in the final 100m to snatch the mountain-top victory.

Quintana had suggested he would need a lead of more than three minutes over Tour de France champion Froome before stage 19's 37km individual time trial to stand any chance of winning his first Vuelta and second Grand Tour title.

And he set about achieving that aim inside the opening 10km of the stage, following an attack by three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff team which caught out Froome and Team Sky.

Both Contador and Quintana emerged with two team-mates each in the break and the rest of the Colombian's Movistar team-mates then separately attacked Froome to isolate him from the majority of his Team Sky squad.

Only David Lopez was able to keep pace with Froome and the Team Sky duo had to rely on riders from Astana and Orica BikeExchange to help stop the breakaway riders moving more than three minutes clear.

Any hopes Froome may have had of clawing back some time on the final ascent were quickly extinguished by Quintana who led the break at such a pace that he managed to drop everyone, bar Brambilla.

"It went much better than we imagined," said Quintana. "The final climb was a race against the clock to leave Froome behind.

"It happened like this because Alberto is also a great strategist, we united and took advantage."

Contador faded slightly on the final climb, crossing the line in sixth, 34 seconds behind Brambilla, but the Spaniard jumped to fourth overall, five seconds behind Colombia's Esteban Chaves, who is in turn 20 seconds adrift of Froome.

Monday's 156.4km 16th stage from Alcaniz to Peniscola is expected to end in a bunch sprint. A rest day follows on Tuesday.

Wednesday and Thursday's stages are not expected to shake up the general classification standings meaning Olympic time trial bronze medallist Froome has Friday's race against the clock and Saturday's mountain-top finish to eat into Quintana's lead.

Sunday's final stage is largely processional and should end in a bunch sprint in Madrid.

Stage 15 result:

1. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita/Etixx - Quick-Step) 2hrs 54mins 30secs

2. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +3secs

3. Fabio Felline (Ita/Trek) +25secs

4. Kenny Elissonde (Fra/FDJ) +28secs

5. David De La Cruz (Spa/Etixx - Quick-Step) +31secs

6. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff) +34secs

7. Davide Formolo (Ita/Cannondale) +53secs

8. Matvei Mamykin (Rus/Katusha) +1min 16secs

9. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) +1min 53secs

10. Michele Scarponi (Ita/Astana) +1min 59secs

Selected:

18. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky +2mins 40secs

21. Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +2mins 47secs

General classification after stage 15:

1. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) 61hrs 36mins 07secs

2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +3mins 37secs

3. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) +3mins 57secs

4. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff) +4mins 02secs

5. Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +5mins 07secs

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