Brit Chris Froome was one of the hot pre-race favourites going into this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Having placed second in the race last year, then second at the Tour de France in July Froome had proved his credentials as a Grand Tour racer.

However, both of those previous Grand Tour results were not achieved as team leader as he rode in support of Bradley Wiggins. Froome was bestowed the honour of team leader for the first time at this year’s Vuelta, and admits that it has been a steep learning curve.

“I don’t know where I’m going to end up by the time the race finishes in Madrid, but the most important thing for me is what I’m taking out of this race – a great deal of experience,” Froome said via the Sky team’s website.

“This has been my first time leading a team and having that weight on my shoulders. Getting the guys to work around me and letting them know what I need has been a really valuable learning process.”

The race is currently on its second rest day, having offered three consecutive mountain-top finishes culminating in yesterday’s brutal climb up to the Cuitu Negru ski station. Froome was again unable to maintain contact with Spanish rivals Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) as the road reared up to an average of 20 per cent in the final four kilometres.

“There was a stage with about 150 metres to go where I looked at the ramp ahead of me and thought ‘I might have to walk up there’,” Froome said of the climb which made the riders look like they were moving in slow motion.

Froome currently lies fourth overall, four minutes and 52 seconds behind Rodriguez with five stages of the race remaining. With hindsight, it was highly optimistic for Froome to be in contention at the race having ridden hard at the Tour, followed directly by the Olympic Games road race and time trial, where he took a bronze medal.

“The hardest part of the race is probably behind us now I think and it’s just day by day now into Madrid,” said Froome. 

There are two further mountain stages of the race, both again featuring summit finishes: Wendesday’s trip to Fuente Dé and Saturday’s penultimate stage to Bola del Mundo. They offer the only remaining chance for riders to gain significant time on their rivals. The 2012 Vuelta a Espana finishes on Sunday, September 9.

If the Vuelta’s overall classification stays at it is now, two second places and a fourth for Froome in his last three Grand Tour outings is a significant achievement and one that the 27-year-old can take with him into next season. 

Related links

Vuelta a Espana 2012: Coverage index

  • teddy

    agree with you Jon, and yep thats my bad spelling.

    Frank – just because Froome had done one good Vuelta (the least prestigious and most easy grand tour in terms of pressure etc) with his history (where that was his first such great performance) does not mean he can rock up at the TDF the next year and defiantly win it. Sky had their plan Wiggo had experience was hitting his training plan and getting results as planned – why then risk it on Froome????

    – from what i saw of the TDF the plan for wiggo was to ride up the mountains from the bottom at a set pace (maybe tempo is the wrong word?) he could maintain (like a TT) and avoid any changes in pace that would crack him.

    -I dont deny the Vuelta gradients might crack him -but he isnt there and didnt target that race….so whats your point?

  • Frank Green

    Teddy have you been out in the sun at the picnic too long- Froome dawdled along at least twice costing minutes in the Tour. These vuelta gradients would have killed Wiggo lad. Cycling is not tempo!

  • Jon

    What if Froome’s mainly in it to gain experience to lead Sky in next year’s Tour? They may not have been seriously targeting the win in a climbers’ Vuelta with three world class climbers (and it has to be said, two notorious dopers) amongst the favourites, after a hard season, but it’s bloody good experience for him. Next year’s Tour is rumoured to be one for the climbers after all.

    Teddy – do you mean whining? I don’t think Froome’s in too much danger of winning at the moment 🙂

  • Teddy

    Froome has support up to being on the lower slopes of the last mountain – it wouldnt make much difference if he had more support, a lot of the riders going for GC dont at this stage -in the last mountain stages he has only just been hanging onto the ‘other’ GC group comprising Gesink etc.
    he hasnt been ‘let down’ at all, hes had a tough season done well and is now as he says learning lots – who else would sky put in riding for GC at this stage of the season who would have done better?
    Did wiggins really just cling to Frooms back wheel on any rise? really? – good old Brits hate to see someone win and do well so have to pick any points – they knew what they had to do and Wiggins used Froome to set a constant tempo – and on occasions went around Froome to stick to this tempo.
    STOP YOUR WINNING – only a couple of years ago having a brit in the top 10 of a Tour was a dream

  • JD

    La Vuelta is a great race for spectators but it’s not a super advert for the sport that two of the top three have recent doping suspensions on their record and the other rides for a team with some previous.

    The riders, teams and hardcore fans don’t care but I bet some of the sponsors do.

  • Frank Green

    I think Froome has been let down and isolated. Sky are sending a message to Froome that ‘ you’re not good enough son, leave it to Wiggins’. This Vuelta profile wouldnt suited wiggins either, he didnt ride it so why hang froome out to dry like this. In the TDF any little rise and Wiggins clung to Froome’s back wheel for support- next year will be interesting when wiggins has to follow contadors attacks, froome will not be waiting i bet!

  • Neil Duerden

    Surely the lesson to be learned is that its maybe not possible for a rider to be in podium contention for the Tour&then the Vuelta(&the Olympics this year!) within the current race calender.

  • Jack

    Beause Xandio crashed out and the others are tired – Uran rode the giro and Porte the tour, they’re not super human, the slopes are tough and steep – only Contador and Rodriguez are managing them!

  • Terry

    Sky knew the profiles of each stage well in advance, why haven’t they given Chris more support in the mountains ??