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Vuelta a Espana

Chris Froome: Spain’s future talent is definitely safe

Former Vuelta a España winner points to Juan Ayuso and Carlos Rodríguez as stars of the future.

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With three riders inside the top ten at the Vuelta a España and two of them 21 years of age or younger the future for Spanish stage racing looks bright, according to Chris Froome.

The 2022 Vuelta a España will conclude on Sunday with a stage in Madrid. Remco Evenepoel is expected to close out the race as the overall winner, while Enric Mas (27) and Juan Ayuso (19) will round out the podium.

Carlos Rodríguez (21) is set to finish in seventh overall. Ayuso and Rodriguez are both making their grand tour debuts, and although Rodríguez faltered in the final few stages due to a heavy crash the new generation of Spanish riders look well placed to take over the mantle from Alejandro Valverde, who will retire at the end of the current campaign.

“It’s extremely impressive seeing these younger guys, like Rodriguez, like Ayuso,” Froome said with Madrid in sight.

“They’ve shown such maturity at such a young age and riding classification already, it just seems like a theme that we’re seeing in modern-day cycling with a lot of these youngsters. They’re turning professional and then within one or two years they are able to perform at the highest level.”

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All of this year’s grand tours have seen first-time winners over three weeks with Jai Hindley taking the Giro d’Italia back in May, Jonas Vingegaard claiming the Tour de France win July and now Evenepoel on the cusp of grand tour success at just his second attempt over three weeks of racing.

Froome, 37, has been battling with health issues throughout this Vuelta, having contracted COVID-19 during the Tour de France and subsequently abandoning. Over the last few years he has seen a changing of the guard with a new generation spearheaded by double Tour winner Tadej Pogačar leading the line. The veteran British rider believes that there are a number of reasons for the younger riders coming through so quickly.

“I think that’s because they have access to nutrition, coaching, and basically everything that the professionals have but from a very young age of around 15 or 16. So when these guys are turning professional at the age of 20 they’re ready to go, and they’re ready to race with the rest of us. It’s an interesting dynamic and an interesting shift. Spain’s future talent is definitely safe,” he said.