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Vuelta a Espana

Chris Froome says he’s rested and ready to race Alberto Contador on his home turf

Racing as undisputed leader of Team Sky "is an opportunity of a lifetime,” says Froome

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PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) —Chris Froome (Sky) says he’s fresh and ambitious to ride for the win at the Vuelta a España.

Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday’s start of the Spanish tour, Froome says he’s rested and ready following the taxing efforts of the Tour de France and Olympic Games.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Froome said, referring to his chance to ride as undisputed leader of Sky. “It’s a good feeling and a new sensation to take the responsibility of such a strong team.”

Froome said the stresses of the Tour and Olympics time trial, where he finished second and third, respectively, were more “mental than physical.”

“I come to the Vuelta feeling fresh and with good legs,” he said. “I rested for three weeks and trained for the Vuelta. I am not worried about the fatigue.”

Froome finally gets his chance to race unbridled, without having to look out for the interests of team captain Bradley Wiggins.

In last year’s Vuelta, Froome was held in check until the final decisive mountains, when Wiggins couldn’t stay with the attacks of eventual winner Juanjo Cobo.

That story repeated itself at the Tour, where Froome was held back in the mountains. Wiggins eventually proved stronger in the time trials and became the first British rider to win the Tour.

Froome says none of the polemic that’s appeared in the media has soured his experiences over the past two grand tours that he’s started and finished second.

“I am a member of a team and I should follow the orders,” Froome said diplomatically. “Before the Tour, I could have never imagined to reach the podium in Paris. I am very happy. Also, I am young, just 27, and I hope there will be more opportunities to lead Sky at the Tour.”

For the Vuelta, Froome says he hasn’t had the chance to preview any of the key stages — something that Alberto Contador has done — but he says he’s not worried. He will count on Spanish teammates Juan Antonio Flecha and Xabier Zandio to offer local advice.

Journalists pointed out that Vincenzo Nibali won the 2010 Vuelta “without reading the road book,” something Froome had a chuckle about.

Froome says he’s especially looking forward to locking horns with Contador. The Kenya-born rider says the Vuelta will be won on the climbs and he’s confident he can take on Contador on home roads.

“We still haven’t raced against each other when we’re both in top condition,” he said. “Alberto will be very motivated in his comeback after his ban and he will also have the advantage of racing in his own tour. The road will decide.”

Finally, when asked about Saturday’s team time trial course ending on the same streets as Pamplona’s running of the bulls, Froome said he hopes there are no stray bovines during the race.

“The running of the bulls is something I might do someday – when I’ve retired,” he said.