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Vuelta a Espana

Chris Froome on Woods’ exit: ‘It changes our goals’ at Vuelta a España

Froome on ambitions: 'I hope to target one or two stages in the back end of the Vuelta.'

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VITORIA, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome said at the start of stage 4 that Israel Premier Tech needed to reshuffle its Vuelta a España plans following the untimely exit of GC captain Michael Woods.

And it didn’t take long to pan out. Alessandro Di Marchi quickly went on the march and rode into the day’s main breakaway.

Woods’ departure from the Vuelta following a heavy crash on stage 3 changes everything for the team, Froome said.

“The one guy who was pretty indisposable for us was Mike. It’s a big hit for our overall goal here,” Froome said Tuesday. “He was in great shape, and the team had a lot of confidence in him.”

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Woods was hoping to punch into the top-10 overall or better. Without the Canadian, the team will now pivot toward hunting stages.

“It’s a real shame to have lost him. That’s bike racing and that’s sport, we have to deal with it,” Froome said. “We got together yesterday and put our heads together. We re-evaluated and came up with some different strategy for us to target a few stages, and to try to get the most out of the race.”

Froome: ‘COVID hit me pretty hard’

Froome is back at the Vuelta as one of the six former champions lining up to race.

Froome won in 2011 and 2017 (with the 2011 victory being awarded to him following a doping case against winner Juanjo Cobo), but admitted that the COVID-19 case that sent him packing from the Tour de France didn’t help.

“To be honest, I am in not in the same shape as I was going into the Tour,” Froome said. “COVID hit me pretty hard in the weeks following. I struggled with my form and it affected my preparation a lot.

“I am going to take this first half of the Vuelta to get the racing in the legs, and hopefully one or two stages in the back end of the Vuelta.”

Expecting ‘fireworks’ in the Basque Country

Expectations were sky high in Vitoria at the start for some wild days of racing.

With local team Euskaltel-Euskadi promising to attack, and a string of stages littered with climbs, Froome knew it was time to buckle up.

“I think we can expect some real fireworks in these next few days, especially in the Basque Country,” he said. “These are typical Vuelta climbs, very steep, very punchy. I think there’s going to be a lot of damage done to the peloton these next few days.”