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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kelly says both Froome and Contador could weaken in final week of Vuelta a España

by Shane Stokes at 10:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Circumstances for both raise uncertainty

Sean KellySean Kelly has warned that two of the top Vuelta favourites are facing an unpredictable second half of the race, with differing reasons existing as to why their strength could wane.

The cycling analyst and former world number one has been commentating on the race for Eurosport and has watched Alberto Contador and Chris Froome both show their strength, as well as the current race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and yesterday’s stage winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Kelly sees the first two as being the ones to watch, but also states it’s too soon to predict the likely winner of the race.

“It is very early [to call it], considering the Vuelta’s final week is a real difficult one,” he told VeloNation prior to yesterday’s stage. “This is a real energy-sapping week, so I think we will see a lot of riders struggling because of the real warm conditions they are getting.”

He explained why two of the biggest names should be cautious. “Froome is in new terrain, he is going for a second big Tour this year. He did the Tour de France and he is now going to try to take the win in what is his second Grand Tour of the year. But the question is how will he manage that in the final week?”

He said that Alberto Contador’s recently-ended six month ban also complicates things.

“Contador is coming back – when you are returning from being out for a long time from competition, sometimes the third week can be very difficult. It is very difficult to know what will happen, it is going to be a very interesting final week”

However he accepts that the opposite could happen too. “ Equally, he could be the freshest one, he could have more reserves than his rivals. So it is also possible that he could be feeling really good in the final week.”

The point is that nothing can be taken for granted. “Although Contador has won all the Grand Tours already, he is heading into new terrain as well because of that break from racing,” said Kelly.

Froome was second overall leading into today’s stage, 33 seconds behind Rodriguez. Contador was seven seconds behind him in third.

Valverde is in a similar situation to Froome in that he also rode the Tour de France. He came back from a two year ban this year and has admitted he’s unsure how his form will hold up.

Rodriguez said yesterday that he was concerned about the upcoming time trial, his weakest discipline. However he finished second overall in the Giro this year, and has had sufficient time to recover from that and to prepare for the Vuelta.

In that regard, perhaps his build-up is the most ideal of the four big race favourites.

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