Britain's Chris Froome, second behind compatriot and Team Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France, will be bidding to upset Alberto Contador's comeback from a two-year doping ban in the Tour of Spain which starts on Saturday. Olympic bronze medallist Froome is bidding to go one better than last year when he finished runner-up behind Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo, who is now riding for the Movistar team.
"It's been a pretty chaotic summer so far," the 27-year-old Froome told teamsky.com. "My focus was on getting through the Tour, and then to the end of it. What we did there was a huge achievement for the team and then to carry straight on to the Olympics after that made it an epic summer. It wasn't easy to retain my focus after the Tour and the schedule has made it harder because I've not had the time to tailor my training specifically for the Vuelta so I'm not going into it the same way as I did the Tour. But I'm confident, still very motivated, and eager to lead the team for the first time."
Froome had been frustrated by team orders to protect Wiggins in the Tour de France but he will be the focal point during the three-week Spanish race.
"It's a fantastic position for me to be in and I want to make the most of it," he added. "I've never done two Grand Tours back to back before so I'd like to see how I cope with that. With so many uphill finishes it's bound to be a really challenging race and there's going to be no hiding if the form isn't there."
Contador only returned to action following a two-year doping ban at this month's Eneco Tour of the Low Countries in which he finished fourth overall. The 2008 Vuelta winner will be supported in the three-week race by compatriots Jesus Hernandez, Daniel Navarro and Benjamin Noval in the nine-rider Saxo Bank team. Hernandez, Navarro and Noval were at the 29-year-old's side when he achieved his last victory at the 2010 Tour de France.
Contador also won the Tour of Italy in 2011 with Hernandez and Navarro, as well as Italy's Matteo Tosatto but was stripped of both the France and Italy Tour titles following a failed drugs test the previous year.
"These have been long months of suspension when I did not always want to go out and train," said Contador. "People's affection helped me. I have tried to alternate my training routes around different parts of Spain, I have checked out the stages of the Tour so that I am not always at home in the same area," he said.
2012 Vuelta a España
1st stage (Aug 18): Pamplona - Pamplona (team time trial 16.5 km)
2nd stage (Aug 19): Pamplona - Viana (181.4 km)
3rd stage (Aug 20): Faustino V - Eibar (Arrate) (155.3 km)
4th stage (Aug 21): Barakaldo - Estacion de Valdezcaray (160.6 km)
5th stage (Aug 22): Logrono - Logrono (168 km)
6th stage (Aug 23): Tarazona - Jaca (175.4 km)
7th stage (Aug 24): Huesca - Acaniz. Motorland Aragon (164.2 km)
8th stage (Aug 25): Lleida - Andorra. Collada de la Gallina (174.7 km)
9th stage (Aug 26): Andorra - Barcelona (196.3 km)
Rest day - Aug 27
10th stage (Aug 28) Ponteareas - Sanxenxo (190 km)
11th stage (Aug 29) Cambados - Pontevedra (individual time trial 39.4 km)
12th stage (Aug 30) Vilagarcia de Arousa - Mirador de Ezaro - (190.5 km)
13th stage (Aug 31): Santiago de Compostela - Ferrol (172.8 km)
14th stage (Sept 1): Palas de Rei - Puerto de Ancares (149.2 km)
15th stage (Sept 2): La Robla - Lagos de Covadonga (186.5 km)
16th stage (Sept 3): Gijon - Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru (183.5 km)
Rest day - Sept 4
17th stage (Sept 5): Santander - Fuente De (187.3 km)
18th stage (Sept 6): Aguilar de Campoo - Valladolid (204.5 km)
19th stage (Sept 7): Penafiel - La Lastrilla (178.4 km)
20th stage (Sept 8): La Faisanera Golf - Bola del Mundo (170.7 km)
21st stage (Sept 9): Cercedilla - Madrid (115 km)