This weekend, Chris Froome (Team Sky) will become only the second reigning Tour de France champion to ride the Vuelta a España in the same season. Carlos Sastre is the only other rider to have done it. Sastre often did both races in the same season, but visited his home Grand Tour as the Tour de France winner back in 2008.
Sastre went on to finish third overall just over four minutes behind race winner Alberto Contador. Just days ahead of Froome's attempt, Cyclingnews caught up with Sastre to get his thoughts on Froome's chances, his rivals, and Sastre's own experiences.
Cyclingnews: What do you think of Froome's decision to ride the Vuelta a España?
Carlos Sastre: It's a good thing. Why not? It seems like he and his team are having a great season. In the Tour de France we saw that he was suffering in the last week but he recovered well. The Vuelta a España is not as hard as the Giro d'Italia this year, it's more explosive. Froome is a rider that can defend himself very well on these kinds of climbs. Why not try it and try to make it possible? I think it's great.
CN: What was your experience of doing it? You had the Olympics in between also.
CS: I had the Vuelta in my head from the beginning as well. I didn't have as much time to recover because Beijing was in the middle of those days of recuperation after the Tour de France. After all of the criteriums, Beijing was not easy and then two weeks after it was the Vuelta a España so it was quite difficult. The start of the Vuelta was not easy for many different reasons [he had fallen out with team manager Bjarne Riis after deciding to leave the team -ed] but, after that, I felt good and I finished on the podium of the Vuelta so my condition was not bad.
CN: How did you feel riding against riders who hadn't been at the Tour de France?
CS: It wasn't easy but for many years there have been riders doing the season like Froome. Before the Tour de France and after, they are doing the same races. So, more or less, they have done the same amount of races before the Vuelta a España. It's going to be an important race for many of them. Froome will be racing with more calm because he won the Tour de France. I think that they can take it easy. Movistar did well at the Tour and Astana was very good at the Giro but they have many leaders in the same team so maybe it will be more difficult to control.
CN: Only two riders have ever won the Vuelta and the Tour in the same season, can Froome do it?
CS: I think it's possible. Other riders have won the Giro and the Tour de France in the same season so of course he can do that. I cannot find any reason why he wouldn't be able to do it.
CN: How do you think the course suits him?
CS: There are going to be 13 or 14 mountain stages and the time trial is not too long and in Burgos it is going to be completely flat and windy I imagine. Of course this is good for Froome. I think that it will be other riders that have to try and attack and do something to gain time on him.
CN: You mentioned Astana before. They have three leaders, how will they ensure that they work together?
CS: I wouldn't mind having this problem. Sometimes the problem is that you don't have a leader so I think that this is a good chance for them. Vincenzo Nibali has a lot of experience; Fabio Aru showed himself at the Giro d'Italia and showed over the last year how good a talent he is. I think that he can be a very important rider in the near future. Landa 'woke up' at the Giro d'Italia and he will be there with a lot of motivation. I don't think that it is going to be difficult to get them to work together and, in the end, the strongest person for them could win the race.
CN: Movistar showed at the Tour de France that they can work together. Nairo Quintana appeared to be getting stronger towards the end of the race, can he carry that through?
CS: I think he's going to be strong when you think about the way that he finished the Tour de France. The only thing is that he is still young and has to recover in less than one month. To be in a top level is not easy. Of course, everyone is focussed on him and it's not easy to deal with all the press. I hope that he will be in top condition because he is beautiful to watch in a race, he's a rider that attacks and he doesn't have any fear.
CN: Outside of Sky, Astana and Movistar, do any other team stand a chance at getting on the podium?
CS: Tejay van Garderen. He went out of the Tour de France when he was in a podium place because he was sick and I think the time trial in Burgos fits well with him. I think he has a chance of making the podium at the Vuelta, because it is less hard. I think that could be worse for Quintana because he needs longer climbs and more days in the mountains but that's not going to happen in the Vuelta.
CN: If you were to put money on a rider winning the race who would it be?
CS: It certainly wouldn't be one of the biggest, because it wouldn't make me any money. We have Valverde and I think it is amazing how he can always be in top shape from the beginning of the season. For me, what he is doing is a great thing. He is a great professional so I would put my money on him because he is a great professional but it's going to be a very open race and the battle will begin at the beginning of the race.
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