Sky man concedes 27 seconds to Quintana in Jerez opener
Chris Froome’s first reaction on crossing the line was one of satisfaction, but as the last squads completed the Vuelta a España’s team time trial opener in Jerez de la Frontera, his take on the evening took on a different complexion.
Those initial impressions may well have been coloured by relief. Froome’s Team Sky finished with the bare five riders together but they stopped the clock at the end of the 12.6km test in 14:40.
Sky’s time would only prove enough for 11th place on the stage, some 27 seconds down on the winners Movistar, who place Jonathan Castroviejo in the red jersey and Nairo Quintana in pole position among the general classification contenders.
“I’ve got to admit we were all hoping for a little better there but it’s a really long race,” Froome told a small group of reporters after completing his warm down on the home trainer outside the Sky team bus. “I think, as we’ve seen in most Grand Tours, 30 seconds after 21 days isn’t that much but obviously it isn’t good starting on the back foot.”
In recent years the Vuelta has notoriously been a game of inches, as Froome knows only all too well – in 2011, he missed out on overall victory by a mere 13 seconds behind Juan José Cobo. It should also be noted, however, that Sky and Cobo’s Geox squads finished 20th and 21st in the opening team time trial in Benidorm, 42 and 43 seconds down, respectively.
No matter, handing a 27-second head start to Quintana, as well as conceding ground to Alberto Contador (8 seconds) and Rigoberto Uran (16 seconds) was not how Froome and Sky wanted their Vuelta to begin.
“It was a very impressive ride from Movistar today and even Saxo Bank were up there too,” Froome said. “As I said before, I think Quintana is going to be the hot favourite for this race.”
Froome’s recent spate of crashes continued on the eve of the race, when he came a cropper without consequence on one of Jerez de la Frontera’s myriad roundabouts, but he said that it had not played on his mind during Saturday’s technical test, which featured no fewer than 17 traffic islands and roundabouts.
“Not really – on a course like that you give it everything regardless but it was a very technical course,” Froome said. “A course like that suited the teams with a lot of guys who can accelerate a lot as it was quite punchy out of the corners. I think that’s something we’ve got to keep working at and do much better next time.”
Some of Sky’s radio earpieces also malfunctioned during the time trial, though Froome was reluctant to blame that for his team’s showing. “We did have a few radio problems out on the road which didn’t help communication but all things we can improve on I think,” he said.
The early exchanges at the Vuelta are often a case of swings and roundabouts, with gains often ebbing back and forth until the general classification begins to take shape in the second week.
After the roundabouts of Jerez doled out their early verdict, Froome will look to respond with a significantly stronger showing in the individual test to Borja on stage 10, but before that, there are two bona fide summit finishes at La Zubia and Valdelinares, as well as a potentially tricky finale at Arcos de la Frontera on stage 3.
“You make up time where you can, every opportunity you try and take,” Froome said.
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