Chris Froome lies just 1:20 off the overall lead as the Vuelta a España faces into a third successive summit finish at La Farrapona on Monday, but the Sky rider has told L’Équipe that he is in Spain primarily to prepare for 2015.
Froome’s Tour de France defence came to a premature halt in July when he fractured his wrist following a brace of crashes on stage 5. The Vuelta is the Briton’s first race since, and after although he has seemed short of his best on the summit finishes to date – and in the Borja time trial last week – he remains in the hunt for final overall victory with six stages remaining.
“The principal reason that I came to this Vuelta was to have at least one grand tour in my legs so that I would be better prepared for the winter, because if I’d had to miss six months of top racing, it would be hard to get back to that level,” Froome told L’Équipe.
“I don’t want to diminish the Vuelta, but I am using it to be ready physically and mentally for next year. I’m already looking to 2015.”
To that end, Froome and Sky are considering changes in their approach for next season. After spending the majority of last winter training in South Africa, for instance, Froome may base himself in Europe this time around.
Long stints of altitude training atop Mount Teide have formed an important part of Froome and Sky’s preparations in recent years but L’Équipe reports that the team is mulling over the prospect of swapping the camps from Tenerife to another location next season.
“It’s interesting to be able to look into those things,” Froome said. “I’ve had a difficult season and obviously I was very disappointed to abandon the Tour, but maybe it’s a healthy thing for Sky. We don’t have the same pressure and we can re-evaluate what worked in the past and what didn’t work. We can take a bit of a step back now.”
At Lagos de Covadonga on Sunday, Froome battled gamely to limit his losses to red jersey Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), eventually reaching the summit just seven seconds behind Contador. After setting the agenda against those opponents in the 2013 Tour, Froome said that he has had to adopt a different mindset at this Vuelta.
“It’s really hard to accept that I could be stronger,” Froome said. “I don’t like the feeling when the others accelerate, when I’m struggling to follow them. I hate it even, but that’s what is going to motivate me to come back stronger next year.”