Froome finding it difficult to handle ‘explosive, punchy’ riders at Vuelta
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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Froome finding it difficult to handle ‘explosive, punchy’ riders at Vuelta

by VeloNation Press at 8:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Briton slipping back relative to three big rivals

Chris FroomeSecond in the Tour de France and the strongest climber in that race, Sky’s Chris Froome had the look of a tired rider on yesterday’s fourteenth stage of the Vuelta a España. The Tour runner-up and Olympic time trial bronze medallist has said he is uncertain why he wasn’t able to keep pace with the other big guns, but suggests he might be suffering in going up against pure climbers who thrive on sharp accelerations.

“It’s definitely not through a lack of trying that we’ve lost time. I don’t know if I’m on lower level of form than at the Tour de France…was I better there or here? I’m not sure,” he said. “I felt better at the Tour but I don’t know what the numbers are saying.

“I wouldn’t say that our rivals are stronger at the Vuelta than those of the Tour de France but they’re a different kind of riders. They are a lot more explosive and punchy than our opponents at the Tour and that’s what the course of the Vuelta is about.”

Froome faltered on the final climb, initially unable to match the pace set by Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard Bank), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). He was aided by his Sky team-mates Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Luis Henao, who dragged him metre by painful metre back up to Rodriguez, Valverde, Dani Moreno (Katusha) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).

Surprisingly, rather than giving himself a chance to recover, he surged very soon afterwards, putting himself into the red and blowing once he was caught.

“With 1.5km to go, when I caught back up to them, I realized that only Contador was in the front. I thought there was a possibility to get some time over Rodriguez, so I attacked but they came back on to me… and they passed me,” Froome said, describing how things played out. “Maybe because I was coming from behind, I wasn’t really able to evaluate what Rodriguez was still capable of doing, but firstly, I already did a couple of accelerations that put me in the red. That was enough for them to put me in a move. They also had something left in the tank, quite a lot actually!”

He ultimately rolled in 38 seconds behind Rodriguez, who caught and then dropped Contador inside the final kilometre. The latter gained 33 seconds on Froome, with Valverde getting 25 seconds of his deficit back and Moreno three seconds.

Froome suggests the acceleration of the Spanish climbers is the issue but in general he seems to be fading somewhat as the Vuelta progresses. He was strong in the opening week, and after stage four, was second overall and just one second off the red jersey of Rodriguez.

Since then he lost time to the Catalan in the mountains, conceding vital seconds and time bonuses. Although he beat Rodriguez by 37 seconds in the time trial, he was still 51 seconds back heading into yesterday’s stage; afterward the stage result and time bonuses were evaluated, he had slipped to one minute 41 seconds behind. And while he held on to third, Valverde is now level on time and appears to be the rider with more momentum.

Former world number one and cycling analyst Sean Kelly said one week ago that there was a chance that Froome could weaken as the Vuelta went on. He pointed out that in riding the Tour and the Olympic time trial at a top level, that he has been pushing hard for a long time already.

In contrast, neither Rodriguez nor Contador did the Tour, while Valverde was not at the same peak he is showing now.

Frome has more opportunity ahead to turn things around, starting with today’s tough mountain leg to Lagos de Covadonga. It’s far too soon to say he’s lost the race, but the Briton is aware that the pendulum of form needs to swing in the other direction if he is to stand a chance.

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