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“I came to this race fresh and I’ve been trying to build up during the race and I’m really happy with the way it’s gone. Coming in to the last week this is where I wanted to be,” Froome said.

Photo: Sirotti








10.09.2014 @ 06:46 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

The 69th edition of the Vuelta a Espana has been far away from easy for Chris Froome so far. It seems very likely, however, that three Spaniards contesting a podium lost their only chance to team up and put some significant time on the Briton on the Lagos de Covadonga, as the other day brought slightly different balance of power.


If anyone has been surprised with such a sudden resurgence of the Team Sky leader, it wasn’t Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), though. The 31-year old Spaniard was consequently picking Froome as his main opponent in a fight for the Vuelta a Espana crown throughout last week, and was more than ready when the Kenyan-born rider eventually started his offensive.


Coming short to race leader but recovering better from three-day efforts in Asturian mountains than the other two podium contenders, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Froome admitted that Contador would be extremely hard to beat. The 29-year old Briton even suggested he would be satisfied with finishing the Spanish Grand Tour inside the top three, but with three mountaintop finishes and short time trial to go, no one could possibly believe he would give up on fighting for a victory.


When Team Sky took control over a peloton on a penultimate climb on Monday it become clear that this would be a day when Froome eventually would go on offensive. The 2013 Tour de France champion indeed accelerated in his typical manner with four kilometers to go on the la Farrapona climb and immediately dropped all GC riders, unable to keep up his pace. Expect Contador. The 29-year old Briton was never close to shake off the Tinkoff-Saxo leader, and when the Spaniard eventually counter-attacked under the flamme rouge, Team Sky rider found no answer.


“I just couldn’t drop him,” Froome said as he slumped into the arms of his soigneur.


“I came to this race fresh and I’ve been trying to build up during the race and I’m really happy with the way it’s gone. Coming in to the last week this is where I wanted to be,” explained Froome to the media scrum on the line. Later he added, “In some ways I’m looking on the Vuelta as the foundation for a good off season and towards next year’s goals.”


With Contador as a difficult to disregard exception, Froome recovered better from huge efforts in Picos de Europa coming into the queen stage than other general classification contenders. Team Sky performance director Tim Kerrison explained that it was a part of their tactics in regards to three-day block in Asturia.


“We tried to look on these three mountain stages as a block,” said Kerrison later, “so the plan wasn’t to ‘hold back’ on the previous two days, it’s not quite that, but to ride as economically as possible and still stay with Contador. The plan wasn’t to lose time on Lagos de Covadonga though. Having said that, the stage today (La Farrapona) was one where Chris could afford to go a bit deeper and it looks like he’s come through these three stages in better shape than either Rodriguez or Valverde.”


For a first time since the Vuelta started in Jerez de la Frontera, we could see the British squad applying their typical tactics, forming their train on a second to last climb and setting a brutal tempo. Team Sky riders acknowledged, however, that they didn’t have any particular plan before the 16th stage kicked off.


“No, not really, Chris sort of said that he was feeling really good once we were into the stage so we decided to take it up on the second to last climb so we pretty much played it by ear until we saw how the stage was going to play out. There were a few worried guys today at the start of the stage – the non-climbers in the peloton – who were worried about the time limit when you’ve got a big climb so soon into the stage,” Phillip Deignan said.


“We just wanted as many guys still with Chris as far into the stage as possible and we wanted a hard stage too, so when Katusha let the momentum drop a bit, we decided to take on for as long as possible and make it as hard as possible. I’m not sure that Froomey emptied the tank yesterday (Lagos de Covadonga) for sure he left a little bit in reserve with today in the back of his mind.


“I’ve been trying to save energy all race, doing my job and sitting up to ride in with the grupetto the whole race, because the final stages will be tough. But today’s stage there were 175 guys on the start line worried about it, because I’m sure that most of us had been thinking about it from the start, there was nobody at the start today who wasn’t a bit worried,” Luke Rowe added.


And while Froome claimed that Contador will be hard to beat, it’s just as hard to believe that the 29-year old Briton won’t give it a try considering that his form seems to increase every day.



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