Froome's 2017 Vuelta win was overshadowed by the salbutamol case, but will he return next year?
Chris Froome should return to the Vuelta a España in 2019 to challenge for a second victory, according to the race director.
The Team Sky rider became the first Brit to win the Spanish Grand Tour in 2017, but his victory was overshadowed by his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol.
After winning the Giro d’Italia this season, Froome is likely to target his fifth Tour de France victory in 2019, which could free him up to ride in Spain in August.
The Vuelta a España director, Javier Guillén, has told Cycling Weekly he believes Froome should return.
Guillén said: “We would like to have Chris Froome here.
“This year he did the Giro so I think next year it’s time to challenge the Vuelta again.
“I always said Chris Froome is the rider that suits best the Vuelta. Everybody likes Froome here in Spain.”
“I think next year he’ll want to get his fifth Tour de France but for me no matter what his schedule is I see Chris Froome in the next Vuelta.”
Froome made history in Madrid last year, becoming to first Brit to win the Spanish Grand Tour and the first to win the Tour de France and Vuelta in the same year since Bernard Hinault in 1978.
The four-time Tour de France winner bested Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) who completed the podium.
But Froome’s victory was overshadowed when news emerged in December 2017 that the 33-year-old had returned an adverse analytical finding for the asthma medication salbutamol.
The test was carried out on stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta.
Froome went on to ride and win the 2018 Giro d’Italia with the salbutamol case persisting behind the scenes.
On the eve of this year’s Tour de France the UCI closed the case against Froome, clearing him of any wrongdoing.
Vuelta director Guillén said he would like Froome to return to Spain, but added it was too soon to say which riders would take on the final Grand Tour of the season.
He said: “It’s quite soon to say who is coming but we have to analyse the trend we have had in recent years regarding Vuelta participation and I have to say that in terms of participation we have always been the second big Tour in the last years.
“The Vuelta is a very attractive race.
“We are expecting the best riders in the peloton and last year we had the best young podium and we would like to repeat more or less the same participation.”
Guillén also reflected on the 2018 Vuelta, won by Brit Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Yates picked up his first Grand Tour victory in Spain this year, after coming within days of victory at the Giro in May.
But the 26-year-old’s Vuelta win made it a clean sweep of British Grand Tour wins in 2018, after Froome’s Giro and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) won the Tour.
Guillén said: “I’m quite happy [ about Yates’ win], especially how he won the Vuelta.
“Simon Yates has shown himself to be the next big Grand Tour rider.
“All he learned in the Giro d’Italia he put in place in the Vuelta and to us it’s quite important because he’s a young rider.
“He allows us to maintain Vuelta presence in UK which is a very important market.”
Guillén also revealed details of the 2019 Vuelta, confirming there will be two time trials and between seven and nine summit finishes.
The first time trial will be the opening stage in the Alicante, south eastern Spain but organisers have not decided if that will be an individual test or a team effort.
Guillén said the second time trial is likely to be in the second week of the race, and will be between 30 and 40km in length.
The director also said the Vuelta will include three new summit finishes that have not featured in races before.
Guillén said: “I think there are many differences between Vuelta and the Giro.
“To me Vuelta introduce you faster to difficult stages.
“We don’t have sprint stages like the Giro, we have less than them.
“To me in the Vuelta mountain stages are included sooner than Giro.
“I think the mountain stages in the Giro are tougher than in the Vuelta.
“We are not looking for altitude meters.
“We are at the end of the season and we have to be conscious that it’s not the same.
“You cannot provide the same route in August and September than in May.”