What's next for Chris Froome - a record-tying Tour de France win or a Giro d'Italia triumph to complete the set?

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Chris Froome did not need victory in La Vuelta to put his name in the history books, but by winning Spain’s grand tour he has opened up a whole new chapter.

The four-time Tour de France winner has become the first man to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year since 1978 – back when the Vuelta was still raced in the early part of the season – and the first man to win consecutive grand tours in the same season since Marco Pantani’s Giro d’Italia-Tour double in 1998.

Froome is Britain’s first ever winner in the Vuelta, and the first Briton to win a grand tour other than the Tour de France.

If Team Sky and Froome have been criticised for putting all their eggs in the Tour basket each year, this victory shows he and they can not only build grand tour-winning form but sustain it.

The Vuelta perhaps ranks third out of the three grand tours in stature, but its reputation has grown immensely in recent years as each season it boasts stronger line-ups.

Riders may start the season targeting either the Giro or the Tour, but most seem to end up fighting it out in the Vuelta.

Froome himself has a long history with a race he has finished in second place three times.

Known as a late bloomer, his career was 12 seconds away from receiving a kick-start when he was a close runner-up in 2011.

He was an accidental contender, having only made Sky’s line-up as a late replacement for Lars Petter Nordhaug and racing in the service of Bradley Wiggins, before taking the red jersey with a shock performance in the time trial.

He would be beaten by another outsider, Juan Jose Cobo, but only after a moment’s hesitation on stage 15 as Wiggins cracked on the Angliru – the same climb where Froome effectively wrapped up his victory this year.

Froome himself has a long history with a race he has finished in second place three times

He was back 12 months later, finishing fourth after emptying himself in support of Wiggins in the Tour de France, but the Vuelta then took a back seat as Froome turned his own attention to the Tour.

But he rode again in 2014 after crashing in France, and after finishing second to Alberto Contador by 70 seconds he was not only impressed with how the Vuelta teed him up for the winter but intrigued by how competitive he could be.

Another second place to Nairo Quintana 12 months ago further convinced him he could win in Spain without compromising the Tour, and this year he has proved it.

While others’ bids to win consecutive grand tours of late have fallen short – notably the Giro-Tour double attempts of Contador in 2015 and Quintana this year – Froome has delivered where others could not.

It deserves to be recognised as a truly brilliant sporting accomplishment, though in keeping with Froome’s understated personality it will probably go under the radar at home.

Froome was deeply impressive in the way he was able to hold off Vincenzo Nibali – who should have been well-rested since his exertions in the Giro in May.

Key again was the depth of Team Sky, who were able to send another star-studded support squad less than four weeks after the end of the Tour, and turning in one of the best overall team performances in years to control this race over mountainous terrain.

Froome now has decisions to make about where he goes next. There is no question that the Tour still matters the most. His victory in July left him one shy of the all-time record of five victories – jointly held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.

But Froome will also be aware that victory in the Giro – a race he has not started since 2010 – would make him only the seventh man in history to have won all three Grand Tours.

Received wisdom – and the recent evidence from riders such as Contador and Quintana – suggest the Giro-Tour double is all but impossible in the modern age – but Froome has given himself an enviable choice when it comes to the next chapter he wants to write.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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UAE Team Emirates rider Rui Costa fourth in thrilling Vuelta a España stage 19 sprint finish

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Rui Costa displayed his pace in a thrilling finish.

A dramatic last few hundred meters on stage 19 of the Vuelta a España saw UAE Team Emirates’ Portuguese rider Rui Costa cross the finishing line in fourth place in a restricted sprint.

Rui Costa and his teammate Mohoric, himself already a stage winner at this year’s race, produced an attacking display of undeniable class as they formed part of the long breakaway for the day consisting of 26 riders.

The stage victory eventually went to Thomas De Gendt (Belgium) of Lotto Soudal, whilst Chris Froome (Team Sky) retained the Red Jersey. UAE Team Emirates’ South African General Classification (GC) specialist, Louis Meintjes, maintained his 14th position in the overall standings.

Commenting on his top five finish, former World Champion Rui Costa said: “Today I was aware that it was important to be in the breakaway and I was waiting for that bit of luck that I have missed on previous stages.

“I succeeded in being amongst the attackers, however I am sad that I didn’t win, especially since my legs felt great and the victory seemed achievable. I was really focused in the last part of the stage and very strong on the final climb – I gave my best until the end, but ultimately I missed the victory which is obviously disappointing.”

A short 117.5km course sees riders tackle two category one climbs, and one HC category climb, during Stage 20 on Saturday. Climbers will be keen to see the mountains and form a breakaway, whilst sprinters will be wary of the brutal 22% incline on some of Friday’s climbs.

This stage has a reputation for producing the overall Vuelta winner, so attacking rides from GC contenders should be expected.

Stage 19 results

1. Thomas De Gendt (Belgium) Lotto Soudal– 3:35:46
2. Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) Trek – Segafredo – “”
3. Iván García Cortina (Spain) Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team – “”
4. Rui Costa (Portugal) UAE Team Emirates – “”

GC Standings

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky – 75:51:51
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team – 01:37
3. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) Team Sunweb – 02:17
14. Louis Meintjes (SA) UAE Team Emirates – 13:32

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UAE Team Emirates rider Matej Mohoric placed in top 15 following stage 18 breakaway

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Incisive: Mohoric.

Stage 18 witnessed UAE Team Emirates’ Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric form part of the main breakaway for the day ultimately earning him 14th place.

The stage victory went to Sander Armée (Germany) Lotto Soudal with Chris Froome (Team Sky) still in the Red Jersey and UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes maintaining his 14th position in the General Classification (GC) standings.

Commenting on his breakaway efforts during the stage, Slovenian rider Mohoric said: “We knew that today the breakaway could go to the finish, so our task was to get into the breakaway. I managed to do so, although it was very hard as it consisted of all the strong riders.

“During the day I tried to save as much energy as possible and I gave my best in the penultimate climb where the breakaway split. Then we tried our best to bridge the gap with the leaders in the last kilometers but unfortunately towards the last climb my legs were running on empty.”

Stage 19 begins in Caso (Parque de Redes) and runs 149.7km concluding in Gijón. The route is best suited for attackers and includes four climbs, with the final one 16.6km from the finish line.

Stage 18 results

1. Sander Armée (Germany) Lotto Soudal– 4:09:39
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) Astana Pro Team – 0:31
3. Giovanni Visconti (Italy) Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team – 0:46
14. Matej Mohoric (Slovenia) UAE Team Emirates – 02:49

GC Standings

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky – 72:03:50
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team – 01:37
3. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) Team Sunweb – 02:17
14. Louis Meintjes (SA) UAE Team Emirates – 13:32

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