There is a moment, with the finish line of stage 14 of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana looming, when Chris Froome looks back over his shoulder to meet the suddenly raised glance of Alberto Contador.
It lasts less than a second, but is filled with dramatic tension. Froome’s expression is invisible to the camera, but Contador’s might be summarised: ‘What the hell are you doing here?’
Team Sky’s leader was at it again the following day on the ludicrously demanding slope to Lagos de Covadonga, getting dropped by race leader Contador and his two compatriots – Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde – and then grinding his way back to their rear wheels.
It is perhaps not overstating the case to say the Froome has discovered a new way to climb. Contador’s relentlessly attacking style – hugely exciting though it may be – has seemingly met its match in Froome’s ability to keep his head while all around him are losing theirs.
At the weekend, they played out a score draw: Froome taking nine seconds out of Contador on stage 14, while the following day, the Spaniard finished seven seconds ahead of his British nemesis on stage 15.
Contador retains a healthy margin of 1.20 over Froome with six stages remaining, but increasingly Froome looks like El Pistolero’s major rival, despite Valverde splitting the pair on the GC rankings.
Official UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti, was on hand to capture the action from both stages.