Sky's Chris Froome still believes in his chances to take control of the Vuelta a España before it ends in Santiago de Compostela on Sunday. He currently sits third overall, 1-39 minutes behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
"I am very happy with how my body is responding," Froome said. "Definitely, I came into the race a little short and I hoped to feel more comfortable starting with the second week. I think my evolution shows that.
"The race is not over yet. We still have a few hard days to come, so I'm happy that I have good legs."
Froome's legs were in doubt when he began the Vuelta a España two weeks ago in the south. He had not raced since he crashed, broke bones in his left wrist and right hand and abandoned the Tour de France on July 9.
Contador began in a similar position, having abandoned the Tour de France with a broken right tibia on July 14. Only Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who sits second overall at 1-36 minutes, had a smooth run with his fourth overall in the Tour.
These classification men will have a chance to fight for the final red jersey and trophy over the next four days in Spain's north. The race finishes at Monte Castrove at 490 metres today, includes a small climb before the finish on Friday, climbs to Puerto de Ancares (1655m) on Saturday and ends with a 9.7-kilometre time trial on Sunday.
"[Monte Castrove today] is not a true mountain top finish but it is a climb. Instead, I'll look to the 20th stage [Puerto de Ancares], which will be the last big test," Froome said. "I expect everyone to be ready."
Froome finished second in the Vuelta in 2011 and placed fourth in 2012 before winning the 2013 Tour de France. Contador has won the Vuelta twice and Valverde once.
"Contador has a good advantage. I'm sure other teams will continue testing him, and we will keep trying," Froome added.
"It is still an exciting Vuelta. It's good for the sport to have this type of competition. In this last week, things can change very fast. There are not many flat roads."
Contador, 31 from Madrid, took over the Vuelta’s lead after Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crashed and abandoned. He underlined his strength with a stage win on Monday to Lagos de Somiedo, but said afterwards that he still fears his rivals.
"No way is the Vuelta won," said Contador. "My rivals are still very close. It appears that Froome is getting better."
Chris Froome and Team Sky happy with performance in Vuelta a Espana so far, which sees Froome sit in second
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