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Chris Froome (Sky)
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Glory and death threats at the Vuelta a Espana, suspicions, anti-doping controls and his contract with Team Sky. There are a lot of hot topics to talk about with Chris Froome. His unexpected second place in Spain, five weeks ago, raised expectations and questions alike about a rider who was still totally unknown by the greater public just two months ago.
Cyclingnews met him Sunday, two hours after the last stage of Tour of Beijing, for an frank and informative interview.
Vuelta's most epic moments
His most dramatic day was stage 17 in Pena Cabarga, where he won but missed the red jersey by 13 seconds.
"Every climber dreams to win a stage like that", he says. And about the threats made by some of Juan José Cobo's most fanatical supporters, he explains:
"I had a couple of people running next to me and saying, basically screaming: 'If you win, we kill you! If you win, we kill you!' But I wasn't bothered, to be honest."
Froome added he has a "good sporting relationship" with his Spanish rival and praised his "clever race".
More than the parcours itself he says he suffered because of his new status. "I didn't feel that tired physically after the Vuelta but from all the things which came with me on the podium - the interviews, the tensions, all that was mentally quite draining for me."
To explain his surprise result at the Vuelta, Froome explains things simply: "My health has been good". For over a year he was affected by bilharzia (Schistosomiasis), a disease caused by parasitic worms.
"It feeds in your red blood cells", he says. "So for a cyclist it's a nightmare: you're always feeling tired, you never recover." And the Briton is still not totally cured. "I still need to keep a good eye on it."
His second explanation was his "own race tactic during the race". Froome adds that "riding with Bradley kept me really protected and kept me in that lead group without doing any huge efforts to be there".
However, as with any rider revealing himself at the highest level, certainly even more at a race like the Vuelta, suspicion reigns. "I am not
at all bothered by any suspicion", Froome says. "I think it's normal people think 'where has this guy come from' but [doping] is not even an
option for me. I really feel strongly about clean cycling - very strongly."
People were particularly surprised by his performance on the Angliru climb.
"Actually I take that as a compliment, people suspecting something else", Froome answers. "That's cycling. There have always
been suspicions but I would like to prove over the next few years that I can consistently be there."
Of course Froome expects to race at the same level at the grands tours in the years ahead. Aged just 26, he has set himself big goals for 2012 and 2013.
"I hope It's just the start."
His 2012 schedule is still unknown. He's keen on the Tour de France however. "The Tour is obviously the biggest goal and I really would like to be there", he says. "But it also depends on the team situation. There is a lot of strong riders in the team." Froome says he felt comfortable about sharing the leadership with Bradley Wiggins: "We worked quite well together" at the Vuelta, there's no reason to think that things will change.
While his team manager Dave Brailsford had offered him a five year extension, he reveals he is "still talking about the small details".
"I think we can settle off for three years." And on the figure? Froome denies it being quite as big as first believed. "I'm not getting 1.2 millions Euros a year."