Chris Froome to lead Team Sky in Vuelta as strong climbing team named

Vuelta and Tour de France runner-up looks to go one better - but Contador likely to pose biggest threat

by Simon_MacMichael   August 9, 2012  

Chris Froome on his way to taking the lead in the 2011 Vuelta (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson).jpg

Tour de France runner-up Chris Froome, who also finished second behind Juan Jose Cobo in last year’s Vuelta, will lead Team Sky’s challenge in the 67th edition of the Spanish Grand Tour when it gets underway in Pamplona a week on Saturday and will have the support of a number of strong climbers following the announcement of the team's line-up today.

Last year, Froome led the Vuelta for one day after putting in a storming time trial in Salamanca, but team orders meant he surrendered the lead 24 hours later to Bradley Wiggins. Some maintain that Froome, the stronger climber of the pair, could have won the race if the team had thrown its weight behind him.

Last month’s Tour de France, where the 27-year-old finished second to Wiggins following a race where the Team Sky pair dominated the time trials and gave their rivals little chance to respond in the mountains, also led to calls for Froome to be given free rein to ride his own race.

Froome went on to win bronze for Great Britain in last week’s Olympic time trial, which was won by Wiggins, and now goes into a Grand Tour for the first time as undisputed leader of the team.

In one of the most eagerly awaited editions ever of the race among Spanish fans, his principal rival is expected to be Alberto Contador, the Saxo Bank-Tikoff Bank’s Alberto Contador starting his home Grand Tour just a fortnight after his doping ban expired.

The Spaniard is currently racing in the Eneco Tour, his first race back, and is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the race for the second time, with Froome seen as his closest rival by some margin.

Team Sky’s nine-man line-up, captained by Juan Antonio Flecha, sees Froome supported by a number of strong climbers including the Australian Richie Porte, who is the only other member of the squad who rode in last month’s Tour de France.

The team also includes two men who finished in the top ten of May’s Giro d’Italia and who occupied the top two spots in the young rider’s classification – Rigoberto Uran, winner of a silver medal in the Olympic road race, and fellow Colombian Sergio Henao.

Great Britain’s Ben Swift and Ian Stannard, the American Danny Pate, and Pamplona native Xabier Zandio, complete the team.

“We’ve got every base covered with this line up,” said Team Sky Sports Director Nicolas Portal. “We have Olympic medallists, amazing climbers, some really strong guys on the flat, and a very fast sprinter.

“Every rider knows their role and they will need to be alert from the very first stage as the level of competition is so high.

“With Froomey, we saw how he improved as the Tour de France went on and he will be very strong here again. This race is a major goal for him and we have the team to give him the best possible chance of success.”

Froome commented: “It’s always been my plan to ride the Vuelta. I’ll be going into the race as team leader but that’s not to say we don’t have other guys who can be right up there on the GC.

“Rigoberto and Sergio both have huge potential, and Richie is another guy who could shine.

“I’m going to do the best job I can and do whatever’s required of me from the team. Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them. We’re sending a first-rate squad and it should be a really exciting race.”

Swift said he was looking forward to a race that will give him a number of opportunities to open his Grand Tour account: “We’ve got a strong and well-balanced team going to the Vuelta.

“There are a lot of guys there to support Froomey in the mountains and I’m expecting him to have a really good race. He’s been unbelievable this season and I’m sure he’ll be able to continue that form and challenge for the top step on the podium.

“I’m really excited about being the team’s main sprinter. There should be plenty of opportunities for me and I’ll be doing my best to get my first Grand Tour stage win.”

Uran added: “This is a really strong team. Everyone is in form and we have a great chance of replicating our success of last year.

“Froomey is looking in great form and I’ve also had a good preparation for this race, so I am excited to get started.

“The route is very mountainous and there are plenty of summit finishes which will suit mine and Froomey’s styles. There should be plenty of chances to show what I can do and I’ll also be there to help the team as much as possible.”

The race is one of the most eagerly awaited editions of the event, marking the first Grand Tour to be raced by Saxo Bank-Tikoff Bank’s Alberto Contador since his doping ban expired last week.

The Spaniard is currently racing in the Eneco Tour, his first race back, and is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the race for the second time, with Froome seen as his closest rival by some margin.

25 user comments

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I'm really looking forward to this after Froome's performance in the Vuelta last year and then the TdF. Could be some cracking finishes and I hope Eurosport give it some decent coverage. Interesting to see whether Bertie is still such a strong climber after his, er, time off.

posted by Sadly Biggins [264 posts]
9th August 2012 - 10:52

2 Likes

I do wonder if Froome still has the legs after the TdF and the Olympics. he certainly had plenty in the tank after the tour but emptied it in the road race and TT. Will he have recovered?

Even if he hasn't, he was always going to push Sky to let him take this on though wasn't he? Froome and Bertie are very similar so it could be a cracking race. They both have that electric acceleration on the climbs to create a gap and they can both TT.

posted by othello [291 posts]
9th August 2012 - 11:06

3 Likes

I would be really looking forward to this... but ITV4 isn't showing any of it! Crying

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
9th August 2012 - 11:07

4 Likes

They've announced today they will do evening highlights like last year.

Hopefully they will have better coverage. It was woeful last year...

posted by othello [291 posts]
9th August 2012 - 11:12

4 Likes

Hope ITV4 do cover it and with Froome in there I'm sure they will be pushing to provide highlights after the success of the TdF and Olympics. It really could be a great race. Not sure if the Saxobank team are up to supporting Contador, they were pretty anonymous in Le Tour from memory. Having said that the Team Sky line up doesn't have the sort of dedicated Core they had for Brad at TdF. But then again they really seem to have gelled as a unit now and from what I have seen certainly at stage races Team Sky seem to be in the premier division of teams.

Can't wait for it.

posted by 1961BikiE [83 posts]
9th August 2012 - 11:37

2 Likes

"Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them"

Maybe I'm being sensitive, but this sounds just slightly bitchy...

posted by BigDummy [295 posts]
9th August 2012 - 12:24

3 Likes

http://www.itvmedia.co.uk/inside-itv/itv-news/la-vuelta-a-espana

"ITV4 to broadcast highlights of La Vuelta a Espana 2012"

Get in.

Also good to see them react to the changing popularity etc, it wasn't long ago that they tweeted the exact opposite.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3310 posts]
9th August 2012 - 12:55

2 Likes

Maybe leaves Wiggo and Cav free to start the tour of Britain on the 9th Sept?

Nice one ITV4!

cycle more, work less!

posted by trek7000 [46 posts]
9th August 2012 - 13:22

3 Likes

No surprise there! but is it a race too far for team sky? As only the hills will tell us the answer to that one am looking forward to this years vuelta it promises to be a cracking race.

Did wonder if Sky would make winning all 3 grand tours in one season their next major objective for 2013 on

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
9th August 2012 - 13:28

1 Like

AGH! Just realised I'm on holiday for the first week!

Wonder if it'll be on in Sicily?!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3310 posts]
9th August 2012 - 13:31

2 Likes

With Froome, Uran and Henao they have a formidable climbing trio and add Porte to it you have a better set up than the TdF team with Stannard the obvious lead out man for Swift.

Admittedly Contador will want to do well and add JRod to the line up then it is a mouth watering line up.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
9th August 2012 - 16:20

1 Like

BigDummy wrote:
"Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them"

Maybe I'm being sensitive, but this sounds just slightly bitchy...

I agree, those were my thoughts also. I wonder if he's ready for leadership? Hope so! But not convinced; I mean, Bradley Wiggins served his time for a few years in major tours.

posted by Mostyn [407 posts]
9th August 2012 - 16:41

2 Likes

Mostyn wrote:
I wonder if he's ready for leadership? Hope so! But not convinced; I mean, Bradley Wiggins served his time for a few years in major tours.

Agreed. Having said that though, Froome has got what he wanted so he'd better perform!

posted by Sadly Biggins [264 posts]
9th August 2012 - 16:44

3 Likes

I reckon Contador will be too strong for everyone and blow the whole race out of the water.

Remember how good he was?

Or is that "used to be?"

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
9th August 2012 - 17:58

4 Likes

alberto vs froome. this is going to be epic! the most underated grand tour

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
9th August 2012 - 18:54

3 Likes

Curious to see how far Alberto will reach without a steak gone bad..

posted by Finnbar [7 posts]
9th August 2012 - 19:06

1 Like

Now we'll see - maybe - whether or not Froome really could've won the Tour if he'd been given his head! Good luck to the boy. He'll have his work cut out coping with Contador - always assuming AC has a supportive team. Froome's team looks good on paper (even online!).

Fran the Man

posted by Fran The Man [67 posts]
9th August 2012 - 20:04

3 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
AGH! Just realised I'm on holiday for the first week!

Wonder if it'll be on in Sicily?!

You lucky sod. I love Sicily and am full of envy. Where are you going?

In answer to your question, I believe RAI Sport 2 may show the Vuelta - it definitely does TdF/GdI, though it's worryingly not listed on the Wikipedia page.

posted by steff [81 posts]
9th August 2012 - 20:15

4 Likes

Saxo dont have a great deal of genuine depth to their squad so i can see Sky doing the same as the tour and putting the hammer down in the mountains and dropping everyone.

Bertie has kept himself fit but is he "match fit" as the footbsll buffoons call it.

Only time will tell.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
9th August 2012 - 21:41

2 Likes

steff wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
AGH! Just realised I'm on holiday for the first week!

Wonder if it'll be on in Sicily?!

You lucky sod. I love Sicily and am full of envy. Where are you going?

In answer to your question, I believe RAI Sport 2 may show the Vuelta - it definitely does TdF/GdI, though it's worryingly not listed on the Wikipedia page.

Smile Cefalu! We've been to various bits of Italy but never Sicily. Anywhere in particular you can recommend for a bit of culture/sightseeing/great food? Alternatively, a little bike shop where I can bag some bargain Italian kit would also be welcome!

I'll keep an eye out for RAI Sport 2, thanks.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3310 posts]
9th August 2012 - 22:22

4 Likes

I doubt Froome will have the legs and without Wiggo. There is NO-ONE else in that team who can keep with him up ALL the climbs. Henao and Uran can keep there for so long, but he'll be left on his own and then its up to him. If he has anything left. It should be good. If not, he'll struggle to make the top 5-10 on GC

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8934 posts]
9th August 2012 - 22:22

2 Likes

Cefalu I don't know. Been to Palermo and environs (Alcamo, Castellammare del Golfo, Camporeale) several times, and out to Maretimmo. Foodwise, you're laughing: best I've ever had anywhere and practically impossible to eat badly.

Culturally, if Cefalu's anything like Palermo just wander and go into every church and museum you see - the whole island is full of things that would be national heritage sites wrapped in cotton wool and surrounded by security guards elsewhere.

Notable bike shops I haven't yet located - did manage to hire a lovely rigid MTB with a complete Sachs New Success groupset at Non Solo Bici in Alcamo which I got very fond of though. That whole valley is full of beautiful strade bianche amongst the vineyards and fig trees, as I'm sure are many others.

To summarise, I'd move there in a heartbeat.

posted by steff [81 posts]
9th August 2012 - 23:23

4 Likes

Perhaps people will now stop banging on about how Froome could have made a better job of winning the TdF - a race that could have been designed to play to Wiggo's strengths - than Wiggo.

I think Froome's in with a chance for the Vuelta - a race that suits Froome's strengths.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
10th August 2012 - 8:18

5 Likes

Cheers Steff, maybe I'll let the Vuelta organisers off this time then, despite the conflict! Big Grin

Also @JohnS - agreed. I just hope there's enough left in the tank to show us what he's made of.

While AC is the obvious dangerman, we are reguarly reminded that there's no fitness like race fitness (hey, a new song!), so it will be interesting to see how his legs are.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3310 posts]
10th August 2012 - 8:39

1 Like

notfastenough wrote:

While AC is the obvious dangerman, we are reguarly reminded that there's no fitness like race fitness (hey, a new song!), so it will be interesting to see how his legs are.

We'll possibly find out about Bertie's legs in the queen stage of the Eneco Tour on Sunday. It goes up several Flemish bergs. It'll be live on Eurosport in English and there'll be live coverage in Dutch here (Kijk live de Eneco Tour).

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
10th August 2012 - 10:56

6 Likes