CHRIS FROOME SAYS he is looking forward to leading Team Sky at the Vuelta a Espana in the absence of Bradley Wiggins.
Wiggins will sit out the third and final Grand Tour event of the season following his historic victory in the Tour de France and gold medal for Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympic cycling time trial.
With Wiggins on the sidelines, it is the turn of Froome, who finished second behind his team-mate in the Tour, to step up and shoulder responsibility in Spain.
“It’s new for me to be a leader but at the end of the day, it’s the same job as ever, you’ve still got to pedal,” Froome said. ”I may be more in the limelight now, but I believe I’ve got the team and the ability to carry this through.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity for me, and I’ll do my part. I know the rest of the team is in great shape. We’ve got several riders who could be in the top 10 overall in Madrid.”
Among Froome’s likely chief rivals is Spaniard Alberto Contador, who will be back in action in his home event after returning to competition from a two-year doping ban. Ireland’s Nicolas Roche will ride with his team AG2R Mondiale but will move to Saxo Bank to ride for Contador next season.
“I’m not afraid of him, but then I’m sure he’s not afraid of me, either, we’ve both got a job to do and that’s it,” Froome said of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider. ”I can’t say what will happen. I’ve never raced against him. I’m sure he’s in perfect physical condition, and he’ll be very motivated after his suspension. And he’s racing on home terrain, too, so that’ll be more motivation.”
Froome predicted a tough first stage tomorrow, a 16.2km time trial in Pamplona, the first of 21 stages finishing in Madrid on 9 September.
“The opening time trial will be very technically challenging and we’ll try for the best result possible,” he said. ”Overall the Vuelta is a very different race to the Tour, especially with the amount of climbing it has it should be conducive to a lot more explosive style of riding, with a lot more attacking.”