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 Espaa
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)