Chris Froome (Team Sky) has said that he is considering racing the individual time trial at the World Championships in Bergen should all go well in the Vuelta a España, where he is currently the race leader.
Speaking at a press conference on the Vuelta's first rest day, Froome said that he would also tackle the team time trial at the Worlds, but would not line out in the road race. Froome last rode the Worlds in 2013, when Sky claimed bronze in the time trial trial in Florence. He also took part in the road race but, like the entire British team, did not finish.
Froome has won bronze twice in the time trial at the Olympic Games, in 2012 and 2016. His last outing in the individual time trial at the Worlds dates from 2009, when he finished 17th in Mendrisio
Asked if he would ride the Worlds, Froome said, "Potentially. If I come out of the Vuelta in good shape, and I'm hoping I'm not going to be on fumes in the last week, then I'd look forward to being part of the TTT over in Norway and potentially also the [individual] time trial. I don't think the road race suits me at all, the conditions and the course, and I'd rather give that opportunity to somebody else to go for it there. But potentially the time trial and certainly the TTT, I think I could bring something to the line-up there."
Froome has held the red jersey at the Vuelta for six days and is currently leading the race by 36 seconds from Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott). He rounded off the opening week of the Vuelta with a victory on Cumbre del Sol on Sunday, and he smiled broadly when it was put to him that he could hardly have asked for a better opening week.
"I'm pretty happy with the start of this year's Vuelta," Froome said. "Up until now we've only had three four-kilometre climbs coming into the finish. Already to be in this position after those climbs is a dream scenario."
The decision to race the Vuelta, Froome said, was not the easier option after the Tour de France, which would have been to "go on holiday with my family and wait for next year's Tour route to be announced."
"It would certainly be a lot easier, but it's a race I genuinely enjoy racing. Back in 2011 it was where I discovered I could ride at the sharp end of the GC guys in the mountains. Obviously, my time trialling has always been there but it was the first time I could put it all together in a three-week race," he said.
"I've got some pretty special memories of that, and just to come back here, it's great. The sweltering heat, that suits me, and it's a great atmosphere out on the roads. The Spanish really get behind all the riders, not just the Spanish ones, even the foreigners, they appreciate a good, aggressive race, and that's exactly what the Vuelta is."
Much like at the Tour, Froome and Team Sky have been in control thus far on the Vuelta, but he argued that the Spanish race is, in fact, a more open and aggressive affair than the Tour because of its structure.
"Pretty much every day is a GC day. In the Tour, there were only three mountain-top finishes, which means there's very little room for error there," Froome said. "If you get one of those wrong, like I did at Peyragudes when I lost the yellow jersey, that makes you think that with time trialling as my forte, I'd rather just focus on the time trials and play it safe on the climbs. I wasn't willing to put everything in and risk losing everything."
The Vuelta, with so many summit finishes and so many climbs, is a different story. "I can afford to gamble a little bit, give a bit of a go one day and if it doesn't work out, then I'll do things differently tomorrow," Froome said.
"The Tour was my main focus of the season, to win it. If that meant playing things safe on a daily basis, making sure I was always at the sharp end but never absolutely emptying myself on any one of those days to win a stage, then obviously that was the way to play it. Here at the Vuelta, there's more space to gamble and with 3,500 kilometres in my legs and a good 2,000 kilometres of training afterwards, I've certainly got a bigger base coming into the Vuelta and I'm feeling more confident on the climbs."
The other big news on Sunday, apart from Froome's win, was Cannondale-Drapac's sponsorship crisis. Speaking in Sky's brand-new race hub vehicle – a sign, for some, of the difference in the teams' financial circumstances – it was put to him that some fans viewed the marked disparity, with some teams economically struggling and others in much better shape, as unfair.
"Yes and no," Froome reasoned. "It's in some ways 'unfair' the support we have in general at Team Sky compared to other teams, but if you take that away then what do other teams have to strive for? I mean why do you try to work harder to get more sponsors, to get more backing and win more races?
"If you take that away, we're almost becoming communists, aren't we? Everybody's going to be the same. We should all ride the same bikes, have the same equipment sponsors, all eat the same rice and porridge every morning so no-one's got added fuel for the stage. Where do you draw the line?
"I do think it's a huge shame Cannondale are in trouble for next year, but certainly the way they rode yesterday [Sunday], I haven't seen them race like that in ages. I think they can take a lot away from that, they committed, they put a lot of faith in [Michael] Woods for the stage win. Ok he didn't [win], he came third, but still that was an amazing performance, the team were on the front all day.
"Well, we're talking about them now, aren't we? That was a great ride and I'd like to see more of that kind of racing from them."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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