What to Expect from Chris Froome at Vuelta

2014 has been a tough season for Chris Froome.  The 2013 Tour de France champion has found it difficult to keep his bike upright this season.  A crash in the Criterium du Dauphine saw him lose his overall lead to Andrew Talansky.  Three crashes in the Tour de France, including two on Stage 5 before they hit the cobbles, forced Froome out with a wrist injury.  And through seven stages at the Vuelta a Espana, the Kenyan born rider has already left some skin behind on the Spanish roads.

Froome left plenty of skin on the roads in France

Repeating as Tour de France champion was Froome and Team Sky’s primary goal for this season.  With Froome’s injury scrapping that plan, he has turned his attention to the Vuelta a Espana, where he finished third in 2011 during his breakout season.  Both Team Sky and Froome have said that they do not expect much from the race and are using it to get a grand tour into Froome’s legs in preparation for next July’s Tour de France.

With the Vuelta being the first time we have seen Froome on a bike since he pulled out of the Tour, it is hard to judge what sort of form the lanky climber is in.  Through the first seven stages of the Vuelta, Froome has shown signs that he is better than he and the team have let on.  On Stage 6, he stayed with the general classification contenders on the climb to the finish and on Stage 7 he out sprinted his rivals to snatch back 2 seconds in the overall.

The Vuelta also marks a surprise return to competition for Froome’s rival, Alberto Contador.  The Spanish climber crashed out of the Tour de France with a broken bone in his shin which caused ligament damage and lead to an infection in his knee.  Like Froome, Contador has said not to expect much from him in the overall and that he might look to take a stage win.

Contador lost a little more than skin in the mountains

It would appear that both Froome and Contador are in much better form than they have been letting on in the lead up to the Vuelta which is perfect for them.  There is little pressure on two of the sports top men in the final grand tour of the season.  If they perform well it will be an outstanding achievement but if they do not, it will be completely understandable with both just recovering from injury.  With the pressure off, I expect the great battle that was supposed to take place in France to take place in Spain instead.