Froome at the top for Chris
Tour de France runner-up and Olympic bronze medallist Chris Froome was due to start the Vuelta a Espana last night looking to go one better than 12 months ago.
Last year he finished runner-up, 13 seconds behind winner Juan Jose Cobo but, after an impressive few months, the 27-year-old will spearhead Team Sky’s bid to win back-to-back grand tours after Bradley Wiggins was crowned champion in Paris last month.
“It’s been a pretty chaotic summer so far,” he said.
“My focus was on getting through the Tour, and then to the end of it.
“What we did there was a huge achievement for the team and then to carry straight on to the Olympics after that made it an epic summer.
“It wasn’t easy to retain my focus after the Tour and the schedule has made it harder because I’ve not had the time to tailor my training specifically for the Vuelta so I’m not going into it the same way as I did the Tour.
“But I’m confident, still very motivated, and eager to lead the team for the first time.”
Froome was frustrated by team orders to protect Wiggins in the Tour de France but this time he’s the focal point for Team Sky, one of 22 teams in the Spanish tour. The Vuelta was due to start with a 16.5-kilometre team time trial in the roasting heat of Pamplona yesterday evening.
The stage included sections of the same streets used for Pamplona’s famous bull-runs and finished in the city’s bull ring.
Around 15,000 people were expected to pack into the ring to watch the spectacle, with a free hour-long concert by rock band La Oreja de Van Gogh following the end of the race. “It’s a fantastic position for me to be in and I want to make the most of it,” said Froome.
“I’ve never done two Grand Tours back to back before so I’d like to see how I cope with that.
“With so many uphill finishes it’s bound to be a really challenging race and there’s going to be no hiding if the form isn’t there.”
As well as defending champion Cobo, now riding for the Movistar team, Alberto Contador races in his first Grand Tour since returning from a ban after testing positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol.
“Alberto has a lot to prove after coming back from his ban,” added Froome.
“I’m not too sure quite where he is with his condition but he’ll no doubt be right up there at the sharp end of the racing and I think he’ll be going in as the favourite to win the Vuelta.”
Similarly, Contador sees Froome as a major rival.
“Froome showed last year that he could have won the Vuelta, where he had the freedom to do so,” the Spaniard said.
“In this year’s Tour de France he showed a spectacular performance and proved that he was the strongest. I think Froome comes with a goal to win, and he will be a tough competitor to beat.”
Movistar team general manager Eusebio Unzue is also looking forward to Cobo’s renewed battle with Froome.
“This is our biggest goal of the season, together with the Tour [de France],” he said.
“We start with Juanjo Cobo as team lead. Last year, he proved he can fight for a grand tour as he beat a strong rider like Froome, who could have been the Tour winner this season.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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