Chris Froome (Sky) has said that he will go to next month's Vuelta a Espana with 'a sense of mission' as he bids to become only the third rider to win the Vuelta and Tour de France in the same season.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Froome revisited his most trying day on the 2017 Tour de France, blamed his travails during stage 12 to Peyragudes on failing to eat sufficiently in the days beforehand. The Briton also confirmed that Mikel Nieve will leave Sky for Orica-Scott in 2018.
Froome temporarily conceded the maillot jaune when he lost 22 seconds on the final kick to the line at Peyragudes, a setback all the more surprising because of the way Team Sky had so dominated the stage to that point.
Speaking to French newspaper Liberation in the final days of the Tour, Froome's directeur sportif Nicolas Portal revealed that Sky had deliberately slackened the pace a notch in the finale in a bid to mask the jour sans. For his part, Froome tried to convince his rivals that he was preparing an attack of his own.
"I tried to make it look like I was OK when in fact the truth is that I was really terrible on the last kilometres of the Peyresourde. If you look at the footage you will see I was out of the saddle quite a bit. I was looking into the faces of each of my rivals, trying to read them. They were thinking, 'Chris is trying to read me because he wants to attack, he's ready to go,'" Froome told the Sunday Times.
"By the time we get to the last kilometre of the Peyresourde I pulled off Mikel Landa's wheel, went to the side, looked back, giving the impression that I had lots of energy. If anyone had attacked I wouldn't have tried to go after them, just gone into time trial mode to get to the finish as efficiently as possible."
Froome was distanced on the steep finishing straight, unable to follow the acceleration of stage winner Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). It was Froome's first time to concede the lead at the Tour to an overall rival – in this instance, Fabio Aru – but the jersey was back on his shoulders within two days, and he carried it to Paris to claim a fourth overall win.
"There was no question in my mind about what happened. The legs felt good, the power was there but I had a fuelling problem. My mistake wasn't on that day but in the build-up to it," Froome said. "We'd done two flat stages before Peyragudes and I'd eaten less than I should have. That had a knock-on effect even though on the mountain day itself I ate plenty. You learn lessons in every Tour and that was an important one for me. From Peyragudes to Paris I didn't stop eating and ended weighing almost 1.5kg more than I'd been at the start of the race."
Froome has confirmed that he will line out at next month's Vuelta a España, where he seeks to become only the third rider to complete the Tour-Vuelta double, and the first since the Vuelta moved to its current, post-Tour slot on the calendar in 1995. Froome has placed second at the Vuelta in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
"Previous years, the Vuelta felt like an afterthought. This year we've thought about it a lot. We're going there with a sense of mission and I just want to have a real shot at it," Froome said.
Froome paid tribute to the strength of his Sky squad throughout the Tour, but is set to lose at least two teammates before the 2018 season. Mikel Landa is destined to leave the team, most likely for Movistar, while Froome confirmed that Mikel Nieve will move to Orica-Scott next season. The transfer cannot be announced formally until after August 1.
"We didn't want to lose Mikel Nieve but Orica-Scott made him a fabulous offer and offered him a mentoring role for their young GC riders for which he's well suited," Froome said. "It was the same for Ben Swift last year. We never wanted to lose Ben but UAE Team Emirates made him an offer we couldn't match."