Team Sky’s Froome won the Tour de France three times already, but has been unable to transfer that success to Spain for various reasons. This year, slightly tired after an Olympic bronze medal and caught off guard, he placed second to Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar). It was his third runner-up spot.
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Froome will need to come ready if he plans to ride the Vuelta again after the Tour, because Race Director Javier Guillén will not hand out favours.
“We’ll never do that,” Guillén said about idea of creating a course in Froome’s favour. “If you prepare your race for one rider and then if that rider does not come, and then what?
“I don’t have a signed paper that Chris Froome will come or that he’ll come in best shape. That’s not how it works, we build it thinking about the fans, about the profile we want to build and our personality.
“We don’t only want Chris on the start line, but other stars there with him. We don’t prepare a race for a specific rider.”
Guillén spoke at length for an upcoming Cycling Weekly magazine feature. He took time out of planning the final details of the 2017 Vuelta route.
The 2012 Tour de France route appeared tailor-made for Bradley Wiggins with around 100 kilometres of time trials. He became the first Brit to win the race. Froome finished second.
Froome untapped his potential in Spain, however. He began the 2011 Vuelta as Wiggins’s helper, but out-climbed most. After three weeks, only Juan José Cobo stood in his way. He finished second again in 2014 and this September.
This year, Froome appeared poised to win with one week to race, but Quintana caught him off-guard in a long-range 100-kilometre attack. The gains were too much for Froome to overcome in the final time trial.
“I’d like to think that the cycling world discovered Chris in the Vuelta. I’m quite happy about Quintana winning, he won with Movistar and he’s Colombian, it’s good for us, but I like Chris. I’d like that the Vuelta has him as a victor and he has it in his palmarès.
“I get the feeling that the Vuelta owes a victory to Chris, but this is something he has to gain on the road!”
Sky seems ready to send Froome back for a fourth Tour title and let Mikel Landa try again in the Giro d’Italia. As he has in recent years, Froome could follow the Tour with the Vuelta.
The Giro and Tour organisers already released their routes. Unipublic should present the 2017 Vuelta in January. It will start over the French border in Nîmes, but the rest is unknown. The Angliru climb could be included before a trip into Spain’s south.
“It’s very important [Froome rides] because fans want to see the best riders of the peloton. They maybe can’t be at their best [after the Giro and Tour], but we need them,” Guillén said.
“I know that it’s hard to do all the big tours, but it’s possible to do two of them, the Giro and the Vuelta, the Tour and Vuelta, or the Giro and Tour. The best for our sport is that the best riders take part in the best races. It’s crucial.”