Team Sky’s Chris Froome faces a difficult three-and-a-half minute deficit with only five days left to race in the Vuelta a España this week, but insists he will keep fighting for his first victory in the Spanish tour.
Froome sat in an optimal striking distance, only 54 seconds back before last weekend. On Sunday, however, Sky faded quickly and Froome, isolated, lost 2-43 minutes to race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He admits that it is too much even for him to make up in the 37 kilometre time trial on Friday.
“I’m not in an optimistic situation as I was a few days ago, that was obviously a big blow to the team in stage 15 on Sunday, where I lost a big chunk of time there and I was on the back foot,” Froome said.
“Then again as we saw in the Giro d’Italia this year things can change drastically in a Grand Tour. We have to keep the pressure on and keep doing what we’ve been doing all along come and keep fighting.”
On the second of two rest days in the Vuelta, Froome sat down with journalists at the team’s hotel in Peniscola, on the Valencian coast and looked ahead to the days to come.
The menu includes two summit finish stages, on Wednesday and Saturday, and the time trial on Friday. Froome, just as his rivals did on Sunday with their early and unexpected attacks, will need to be creative to shake the classification.
“If anything we are going to have to look even harder for opportunities now,” Froome added. “We are going to have to look at stages that we first thought were relatively straightforward and try to make opportunities.
“We’re not the only team that is thinking that way, Alberto [Contador] and Tinkoff are thinking that way. People are battling for the podium. We could see a really explosive last few days of racing.”
However, Froome indicated that it might be the best possible spot for him this year given the beating he suffered on Sunday.
“Every year have the same opportunity. Normally I’m here in the same condition that I had after the Tour de France, here with what I had left after the Tour,” he said.
The time deficit and fatigue could be too much for him now. He raced at top speed since the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. After his third Tour de France win, he squeezed in criteriums and RideLondon before the Olympic Games road race and time trial.
“Of course I would love to win the Vuelta, but it might have to be a goal for another year. Of course, I’ll keep fighting but it’s definitely less realistic now than it was a few days ago.”