Speaking during the first rest of the Vuelta in northwest Spain, Froome explained that he has learned to be more consistent during his time at Team Sky and is back to his best after overcoming bilharzia (schistosomiasis), a disease caused by parasitic worms.
“My position at the Vuelta is a big milestone in my career. Taking the lead and all the messages of congratulations I’ve received in the last 24 hours has been overwhelming but definitely worth all the hard work," he said. "Before I was too impulsive but now I’m able to express myself properly at the level I’ve always wanted to be.”
The ever friendly, but very determined Kenyan-born Briton finished second in the 47km time trial around Salamanca on Monday. He leads Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) by 12 seconds, with teammate Bradley Wiggins third at 20 seconds. The Vuelta heads into the mountains again on Tuesday with a summit finish at Estación de Montaña Manzaneda. However, Froome hopes to hold onto the race lead as far as possible, as a way of remembering Txema Gonzalez, the Team Sky soigneur who died during last year’s Vuelta after being struck by a bacterial infection.
“We want to honour the red jersey with Txema in mind,” Froome said. “It would be fantastic if we could still lead the Vuelta in his home town of Vitoria in The Basque Country.”
"I don’t want to set a date for passing the red jersey onto somebody else. I want to keep it as long as I can. But with Bradley, we have two cards to play. We haven’t really talked tactic yet but we’re going to defend the lead.”
Strong GC ride
Froome turned professional in 2008 with Barloworld and rode the Tour de France when just 23, but made it to Paris and produced a strong ride in the final time trial. He also finished second in the British national time trial championships behind Wiggins in 2010. His only career victory is at the Giro del Capo stage race in South Africa in 2009, while with Barloworld.
“Life in cycling would be boring if everything happened just as expected,” Froome said, pointing out that his moment of glory did not happen by chance.
“I didn’t profit from any lucky breakaway. I’ve been with the GC contenders every day. My goal was to stay with Bradley in the high mountains. That kept me in contention for GC.”
Froome’s season was knocked off course by the parasite which he picked during a visit to Kenya. It cost him a ride at this year’s Tour de France but he is now confident he has overcome the problem.
“It feeds off red blood cells which is obviously not ideal for an athlete,” he said. “But after undergoing some treatment following the Tour of Switzerland in June, I think where I am now shows I’ve finally got the better of it.”