Asked by Cyclingnews at the start of stage 19 if Froome still had a chance of winning, Brailsford said simply: “Yes. You’ve got to believe that, and for sure he can. Anything can happen in a bike race, we all know that. What are the probabilities of him winning? I’m not going to answer that, but could he still he win it? Yes.
“There’s still a lot of suspense, and tomorrow’s summit finish is a very difficult climb. If anybody’s on the way down and anybody else is on the way up....”
Prior to stage 19, Froome was 1:19 back on Contador, which - coupled with other factors like a strong team and Froome’s evidently rising form - Brailsford believes could still tip the balance. But Brailsford is adamant, in any case, that Froome will not now ride conservatively to hold onto second place.
“Are we going to continue to try and win it? We’re certainly not settling for the podium. And with the most difficult climb of the Vuelta still to come and the time trial, we’re still very much full gas going for the best performance possible.”
Asked if he thought the race could even come down to the final time trial on Sunday, Brailsford said “I don’t know, but I’d hope so. What a great race it would be if it did, we’ve had that in the Tour de France [in 1989], haven’t we?
“[For Froome to win] would mean Chris having a fantastic day and Contador having a difficult day.”
Should Froome win, he would be the first Briton ever to take the Vuelta a España. Previous best finishes for the UK are Robert Millar’s brace of second places in 1985 and 1986 and Froome’s second place in the 2011 Vuelta, ahead of team-mate Bradley Wiggins.
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