Chris Froome (Team Sky) is aware that the short stage to Formigal cost him the 2016 Vuelta a España and says the responsibility is on him and his Sky team to avoid that same trap.
Froome last year sat ready to take the red jersey and win the Spanish tour after dominating the Tour de France. All he had to do was stay in contention for the final time trial and over-take Nairo Quintana (Movistar). His rivals Quintana and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), however, isolated him immediately in the mountain stage and took too much time to make an overall victory possible for the Brit.
Sunday’s 129-kilometre stage to Sierra Nevada appears ready-made for such a trap, but Froome, with a 55-second lead over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), has put thought into how to avoid such mistakes again.
“There are two aspects to that, first of all, having numbers at front, numbers with my team-mates to control any kind of situation like that for me,” Froome explained.
“And number two, it’s also my responsibility, to make sure guys like Contador who are higher up on the GC don’t go into that front move without me following them.”
Froome found himself without any team-mates just 10 kilometres into the 118.5-kilometre Formigal stage. Contador and Quintana motored away each with two helpers.
He will rely on Ian Stannard, Christian Knees and Salvatore Puccio, and expect his elite climbing guard – Gianni Moscon, Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels and Diego Rosa – to be there later. The rest of the responsibility is on him.
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“There are definitely two sides to that, the responsibility of my team-mates to be up there and then the responsibility on me to follow the guys who could put us in that possible situation.”
Froome lost 2-43 minutes to Quintana at Formigal. He clawed back 2-16 in the time trial, but ended the Vuelta 1-23 down in second place overall behind his Colombian rival.
Stage 15 climbs the Alto de Hazallanas, at 1680 metres, midway in and finishes at 2510 in Sierra Nevada – all tightly squeezed into 129.4 kilometres.
“I just think at the end of a really hard week, it can be one of the most decisive stages at this year’s Vuelta, especially being at high altitude,” added Froome. “That’s a key stage in my mind.”
In the previous stages he warned it was “important to keep something in reserve” for the Sierra Nevada day.