Sky’s Wiggins and Froome pledge to battle onwards
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Monday, September 05, 2011

Sky’s Wiggins and Froome pledge to battle onwards

by Shane Stokes at 1:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Multiple other teams showing interest in securing Froome’s signature

Chris froomeSpeaking on the second rest day of the Vuelta a España, Sky Procycling duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome have pledged to fight onwards in a bid to topple race leader Juan Jose Cobo.

After the Sky riders led the race for almost a week, the Spaniard seized the red jersey yesterday with a solo win at the top of the Aldo de l’Angliru climb. He finished 48 seconds ahead of Froome and one minute 21 up on Wiggins; when the twenty second time bonus was factored in, he ended the day twenty seconds and 46 seconds ahead, respectively.

Six days of racing lie ahead, with two of those days being tougher than the others. They are Wednesday’s leg to Peña Cabarga, the final summit finish, and Saturday’s race to Vitoria. This includes a first category climb, but there is then almost 50 kilometres of flat roads between there and the finish.

Looking at the route, there appears to be limited opportunities for pressure to be put on Cobo. However the Sky Procycling riders say they are determined to keep fighting.

“The hardest stages are over now but in the coming five days of racing, anything can happen”, said Wiggins. “It’s been a brutal race so far. If the route of a Grand Tour was designed for me not to win, it was this one. There’s a sense that the race is over but we’re in a full stretch. The gaps are minimal. I don’t know really what’s going to happen.

“I’ve experienced a roller coaster in the past few weeks since I crashed at the Tour de France. The Vuelta is part of the process of the preparation for the world championship for time trial, but it’s still a disappointing situation [for the team] to be second, so we’ll do what we can to finish first in Madrid.”

Froome rode strongly on the Angliru, showing that he had more in his legs on that climb than Wiggins did. He could likely have limited Cobo’s gains somewhat had he been able to chase sooner, but remained ahead of Wiggins for much of the climb to try to help the team leader defend the red jersey.

When he finally got the green light to go, he was able to accelerate, but it was too late. He said the Spaniard was riding very well. “We knew from the day before that he looked strong,” he said of Cobo. “When he went, we tried to pace him back slowly but he kept putting time on us.”

He too will fight onwards, and will hopefully be given equal billing. He took over the race lead in last Monday’s time trial and when the race resumed on Wednesday, he was required to ride for Wiggins on the final climb and cracked as a result, losing 27 seconds. Given that his current deficit is 20 seconds, many are wondering if he should have been also treated like a leader.

As it has been pointed out, Wiggins has a better track record in Grand Tours and was the designated team leader. The counter argument is that Froome was still strong enough to take the red jersey, despite having spent a lot of energy in domestique duties. One factor which appears not to have been considered by the analysts is that should he win or finish high up but not be part of the team next year, then those points will head with him to his new destination.

As some of his fellow riders have pointed out, though, it is the case that Sky has thus far chosen not to extend his contract, rather than Froome deciding he wants to leave. VeloNation understands that in the absence of a deal, GreenEdge and Lotto have both recently been in talks about securing his signature. Since then, the number has grown and multiple squads are chasing him for 2012 and beyond.

Whether or not he ultimately races elsewhere, it would seem logical that in terms of chasing the final overall victory, Sky Procycling’s best-placed rider gets at least equal backing in the days ahead.

He’s showing that he is gradually growing in confidence. “This Vuelta is an incredible learning experience for me to become a GC rider. It’s been quite overwhelming from the start,” he said. “I’ve learned from Bradley how to be conservative. In the past few days, that’s what helped me show that my performance in the time trial wasn’t just a flash in a pan or a lucky result.”

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