Chris Froome says that he has ‘unfinished business’ at the Vuelta a Espana, where he returns aiming to become just the third rider to win both the Vuelta and Tour de France in the same season.
Only Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault have previously achieved the Tour/Vuelta ‘double’, a feat no rider has accomplished since the Vuelta a Espana was moved to become the last of each year’s three Grand Tours back in 1995.
There will be a strong Team Sky lineup when the race kicks off with a team time trial in Nimes on Saturday 19 August – Chris Froome, Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve, Diego Rosa, David Lopez, Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio, Ian Stannard and Christian Knees.
The four-time Tour de France champion says that the team’s approach to this year’s Vuelta has given him reason to be optimistic about his chances of back-to-back Grand Tour victories.
“It certainly feels as if I’ve got unfinished business with this race. I’ve finished second three times now, but I’ve got a good feeling about this year’s Vuelta. It feels like we’re on much more of a mission this year, and aiming for the Tour/Vuelta double this season has been a huge motivation.
“I don’t think we’ve been to the Vuelta a Espana with a team as strong as we’ve got this year.”
Froome, though, is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge – and the harsh conditions the Vuelta offers up to riders.
“It’s a race I love doing, but it’s relentless. The course is always a lot more mountainous than the Tour de France and the conditions are tougher. Being mid-August in Spain, it’s quite common to have temperatures up in the mid 40s. It’s absolutely brutal.
“One thing that really sets the Vuelta apart from other races is where it is in the season. You have this mixture of riders who have targeted the Vuelta specifically, and others who are coming off a big season already.
“Typically, it’s a very aggressive race and a very punchy style of racing, which always makes for great viewing for the fans.”
Sir Dave Brailsford underlined the importance that the team attached to this year’s race. He said: “Every Vuelta is important as it is a Grand Tour but this year we are more motivated than ever to try to win it. I believe this Vuelta can be a defining moment for Team Sky and for Chris Froome.
“Only two riders have done the Tour/Vuelta double in the same season – Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault in 1978. This year Chris has the chance to write history alongside them and cement his place as one of the all-time greats of the sport.
“But we know from experience just how tough and competitive the Vuelta is as a race. This year is no different with one of the very hardest mountain top finishes on the Angliru on the penultimate stage.
“We go into the race with Chris supported by another group of very talented riders. It is great to have Wout Poels back after injury and it is an opportunity for him to put his mark on the season after a challenging year. Gianni Moscon will also be riding his first Grand Tour. He is an exciting talent with a lot to offer the team.
“I was very proud of how we rode the Tour this year – the teamwork and the way our riders supported each other was exceptional. This group go into the race with the same mindset and we will give them every support we can to help them succeed together.”