The Team Sky leader put 52 seconds into race favourite Alberto Contador in the opening team time trial, but sits neck and neck with Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde
Chris Froome says that he was “surprised” to feel so good in Saturday’s team time trial and to help Team Sky take an early advantage on day one of the Vuelta a España, which still must cover 3200km over three weeks.
Sky’s victory in northwest Spain near Ourense helped put Froome take seconds on some and nearly a minute on three-time race winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).
“We’re hoping we were going to do good time but I’m actually quite surprised that we able to win,” Froome said off to the side after his podium duties.
“I was a bit surprised with how the legs feel. I did start conservatively and just shorter turns and then at the end, I took longer and harder pulls.
“I think Alberto Contador is in great form right now. It’s three weeks so a lot can happen and it’s a long way ahead, but for us it’s great confidence boost for the team.”
The team began slowly, clocking times slower than rivals BMC and Orica-BikeExchange at the first checks, and ramped its pace towards the end.
After 27.8-kilometres around the river in Ourense’s wine-producing countryside, it beat Movistar by a fraction of a second. Pete Kennaugh led Sky over the line and took the red leader’s jersey, which he will wear today in an expected sprint stage.
Froome circled key stages on the Vuelta a España’s calendar just as he did ahead of the Tour de France.
“The last few days we had a good look at the course and thought about it thought about the technical course and thought about a lot how we are going to ride each part today, so in that sense it was a big goal for us,” Froome said.
“Overall, the time trials and the uphill finishes are going to be the most decisive for the GC so it was a stage that we thought that we really need to bring our A-game.”
Froome took time on his rivals in the Tour de France early on in particular moments, once racing solo downhill to Bagnères-de-Luchon and once attacking on the flat cross-wind roads to Montpellier. Other gains came in the two time trials.
The 31-year-old Brit and new dad is no machine, however. After racing the Tour and the Olympic road race and time trial, where he took the bronze medal, some questioned how much would be left in his tank for the Vuelta a España. Froome, too.
“It definitely put me in a great place, the team too. I’m obviously hoping to ride into this race and just stay out of trouble in the first half and hopefully right into the race in the second half.”