The best stage racers in the world, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, come head to head for the first time in 2015 at the Ruta del Sol
Beginning near Seville on Wednesday, February 18, with a split road and time trial stage, the five-day Vuelta a Andalucia becomes progressively more difficult as the week progresses, including a summit finish on Saturday, February 21.
“It will be really interesting to see where rivals like Alberto Contador will be in terms of their condition,” Froome said ahead of the race. “But there are a lot of good riders here so I imagine it’s going to be a really tough week.”
While Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was a late withdrawal following a crash at the Colombian national championships earlier this month, Froome will still face up to the likes of Jean-Christophe Peraud, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Bauke Mollema (Trek).
“It’s a great race to have so early in the season given that it’s so challenging,” Froome added. “It’s got the climbs, the short TT, it’s got a bit of everything, and the crosswinds down here. It’s a great race to really get back into that feeling of racing again.”
While still early in the season, the race offers the first opportunity for many of the 2015 Tour de France’s likely contenders to bag an early victory and score some psychological points over their rivals, even if Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) – first, second and fifth at last year’s Tour – have opted for the Tour of Oman.
“We [Contador and I] are not going to draw, that’s for sure,” Froome added. “I know what work I’ve done to get here and I know I’ve got a lot more work to do before I’m in Tour de France form.
“I don’t know where Alberto’s at, whether he’s in his Tour de France form already or if he’s still got a bit of work to do. I’ve had a decent winter with minimal interruptions; it’s been good training for me, the weight is good, I’ve done all the exercises I need to do, I feel healthy and more than anything I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it again.”
Froome declined to comment on reports that Contador may hang up his wheels at the end of next season, reiterating that he would like to keep riding for at least another decade.
“Every rider is different but for me personally I love riding my bike and I hope to be able to continue until I’m 40, or until my body will allow me,” he said. “If Alberto is going to be retiring, he wants to finish at the top and he’s definitely at the top of the sport and that’s his decision.”