MILAN (VN) — Sky’s Chris Froome, who won the Tour de France on Sunday, has a better chance at winning the Vuelta a España than the Giro d’Italia given his team’s Tour focus, say cycling experts.
Sky boss David Brailsford said Monday Froome will continue from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to Spain for his next grand tour. Froome has twice finished second overall in the Vuelta, but has yet to win it. Only two cyclists — Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault — have won the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year. And that was when the Vuelta was held in the spring.
“I don’t think you can do a Giro and Tour win if the team focuses on the Tour,” Dimension Data general manager Doug Ryder said. “His focus will always be the Tour. I’m not sure he’ll do a Giro, maybe in the later part of his career, but the Vuelta is possible.”
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Irishman Stephen Roche won the Giro, Tour, and the worlds in 1987. He said Froome should try to round out his palmarès with one of the two other grand tours.
“He should go properly for a Giro/Tour or a Tour/Vuelta,” Roche said. “The weather could be too much for him at the Giro, but the Vuelta is good for him after the Tour.”
Froome dominated this year’s Tour and finished on the Champs-Élysées Sunday with a 4:05 lead over Frenchman Romain Bardet of Ag2r La Mondiale. His track record in one-day road races is not as strong, so the Olympic road race could be too much for him. In the time trial, he stands a good chance after winning the bronze medal at the 2012 Games in London.
Froome has an even better chance in the Vuelta given the package he brings: a strong support team and both speed and time trial power. Already, he placed second behind Juan José Cobo in 2011 and second behind Alberto Contador in 2014.
Last year, a crash and broken foot bone forced him to quit in the second week. Italian Fabio Aru of Astana won the title after taking the red jersey from Giant – Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin on the final mountain day.
Froome will face favorites Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), and Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange) at the Vuelta, which starts August 20.
Sky has been trying to vary its trophy chest in recent years. This spring, it claimed its first monument when Wout Poels won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. However, the British WorldTour team still wants a title from cycling’s two other grand tours.
“We’ve won a lot,” Brailsford said told Sky Sports this week. “There are still some gaps, what we haven’t won. We need to look at the gaps, what we haven’t won, and see that as ambition for the future.”
Froome said that given the modern demands on cycling, it would be hard for him to expand and win all three grand tours and all the one-day monuments as Eddy Merckx did in the 1960s and 1970s. Even the Giro, he said, would take too much focus away from the Tour.
“As it stands, with my focus on the Tour, it’s difficult to commit to the Giro,” Froome explained. “It’s difficult to back up two grand tours like that.”
“They would love him in the Giro if he came,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli said. “The Tour is the big monster, it takes all the attention. I understand why Sky gives it its focus.
“I saw that when Vincenzo Nibali won, it gave him so much more than his Giro title did. Froome, though, can go on from the Tour and race the Vuelta.”
Sky planned for Froome to reach his top form during the third week of the Tour. The idea is to carry some of that winning fitness through the next six weeks, which includes his next two goal races.