Chris Froome will make his Israel Start-Up Nation debut at the Vuelta a San Juan in January. The four-time Tour de France winner will use the season opener to kick-start his campaign in his new team colours after leaving Ineos Grenadiers over the winter.
Froome has never taken part in the Argentine stage race before but the event has grown in recent years, with several WorldTour teams using the event as an alternative to the Tour Down Under.
With the Australian race cancelled this year due to a lack of WorldTour teams willing to travel to Australia and quarantine due to COVID-19, the Vuelta a San Juan takes on additional importance.
"This race will mark the beginning of a much-anticipated new chapter of my career. I look forward to racing with my new teammates and getting the ball rolling on the adventure that lies ahead," Froome said in a press release issued by his new team.
The eight-day race is often peppered with a blend of mountain stages and days dedicated towards the sprinters but, despite a favourable terrain, Froome will not use the event as a marker for success. His team have taken the pressure off, too, and insisted that their new GC leader will not target the overall standings while in South America.
"He is not going to Argentina to win the race," said Rik Verbrugghe, the team’s new sporting manager. "We see it as a perfect opportunity for Chris to start the building process towards the peak of the season down the road."
The rest of Froome's race calendar has yet to be announced but it is expected that he will race a traditional Tour de France pre-race programme with events such as the Critérium du Dauphiné and either Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice on his schedule.
According to team the team’s general manger, Kjell Carlström, the team will use the Vuelta a de San Juan to train and build a relationship with their new leader.
"In what is going to be an important season for the team and for Chris, the nice atmosphere and weather in the Vuelta a San Juan makes it a great place to start out the season," Carlström said.
"Chris will get a feel for his new teammates in a short camp before the start and will be able to build on the relationships throughout the race. Racing together as a team is always important and this race setting provides a great platform for working on that."
While Froome use the race to build his form, the Israel Start-Up Nation team will also aim for stage wins. Sprinter Rudy Barbier returns to the race, having won the opening stage in 2020, while Guy Niv will target mountain stages and uphill finishes. Tom Van Asbroeck, Alex Cataford, and Patrick Bevin complete the team’s line up.
"I’m excited that the Israel Start-Up Nation team will kick off the 2021 season in Argentina once again, as we have raced the Tour of San Juan three times. Chris Froome has been training hard, and this will be his first opportunity to represent ISN as he races in our blue and white colors and returns to form," said team co-owner Sylvain Adams.
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