Chris Froome aims to make most of opportunity to lead Team Sky in Vuelta

Man who was runner-up in two of the last three Grand Tours looks to go one better in Spain

by Simon_MacMichael   August 15, 2012  

Chris Froome attacks on the way to Bilbao (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson).jpg

The 67th edition of the Vuelta starts on Saturday with a team time trial in Pamplona, and for the first time, Team Sky’s Chris Froome, runner-up in last year’s edition, leads the outfit into the race as he targets going one better this time round. Ahead of the race, he spoke to organisers about his thoughts on the Vuelta and the coming three weeks.

The 27-year-old Froome comes to the race buoyed by his second place in the Tour de France behind Bradley Wiggins, and of course that bronze medal in the Olympic time trial behind his team mate.

Whereas last year, Froome’s main rival was the previously unheralded – and subsequently anonymous – Juan Jose Cobo, now with Movistar, this time round the strongest challenge is likely to come from the man widely viewed as the best Grand Tour rider of his generation, Alberto Contador, back from his doping ban and looking to win his home Grand Tour which he won in 2008, his only previous participation.

Vuelta organisers Unipublic have tweaked the format a little bit this year, scaling down the amount of time awarded in time bonuses for the first three riders across the line – instead of 20, 12 and 6 seconds for first, second and third place, those will now be 12, 8 and 4 seconds. Even if that system had been in place last year, Cobo would have won, but by 3 seconds instead of 13.

Plenty of summit finishes, however, mean that as last year it is a race to which Froome is well-suited, while the profile of the mountain stages in the Tour de France plus the amount of time trialling in that race favoured Wiggins, despite many insisting that Froome looked the stronger rider.

Froome, who is supported by a Team Sky squad that as in the Tour de France has been selected very much with the mountains in mind, lies second favourite to Contador in the betting, and is relishing the opportunity of racing the Vuelta again.

“Having done all three Grand Tours, I can confidently say I enjoy the Vuelta the most. Last year and the way the race unfolded will always be a highlight for me.

“It was the first race where I was able to show my potential in Grand Tours and consequently gave me the opportunity to target races like the Tour and the Olympics this year. 

“Doing the Vuelta again has always been a goal for me this year, and I hope to be able to carry the form from the Tour and the Olympics on for a few more weeks. 

Asked whether he believed he could maintain the form he has shown so far this summer over the next three weeks, Froome said; “It’s going to be difficult, but I will certainly do my best. With the Olympics, it has been difficult to focus on preparation for the Vuelta.

“I haven’t seen much of the course myself, but I’m expecting a tough three weeks ahead of me. I hope to get the best out of myself in terms of the general classification, where that is exactly, who knows. I’d certainly love to win a Grand Tour after finishing second in the last two that I’ve done.

“My focus for this year was to be ready for the Tour de France, but this will be the first time for me going in to a Grand Tour as team leader.  I just hope to make the most out of it and make it a successful Tour for Team Sky.”

Despite his ban following that positive test for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, Contador, who returned to racing last week in the Eneco Tour, remains favourite for the Vuelta and is guaranteed huge home support.

Froome is asked whether he believes he can be beaten.

“Anything can happen over three weeks, especially in Spain,” is his reply.
 

3 user comments

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It might be a tour to far for Froome this year but fingers crossed i'm wrong, and i know he will bury himself if he has a chance to do well.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2382 posts]
15th August 2012 - 16:42

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Not having had the time to focus on the vuelta, combined with a very tough season for him so far, compared to a man with almost no racing in his legs, but all the time in the world to recce the course and select his gear ratios etc. My heart says froome, but my head says AC.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2578 posts]
15th August 2012 - 20:33

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Assuming that Froome and AC are equally matched then the main factor will be their teams and SKY has the upper hand by far if the TdF did not take too much out of their tank. Richie Porte should be a strong ally having been inexplicably left out of the Aussie Olympic road & TT team.

posted by RTB [47 posts]
16th August 2012 - 9:21

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