Chris Froome has completed the Vuelta a Espana's difficult transitions stages in good shape and ready for the upcoming mountains, but the Team Sky rider has lost a valuable team-mate after Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski quit with back pains, possibly provoked by a saddle sore.
"It's a big blow, he's a big part of the team, he's got a lot of horsepower and was in great shape, so it's a real shame us to lose him," Froome told a small group of reporters after stage 7.
"It's definitely going to have an effect, but hopefully we've got enough strength throughout the team to get the job done. We'll have to see how the next few days go."
As for the Camperona climb and whether it was too hard a summit finish too soon, Froome argued, "That's the nature of the Vuelta, every year it’s the same. We did that climb back in 2014. It's a tough, tough finish. It's going to be about getting there hopefully in a good position, and seeing how my legs feel."
Froome is currently third overall, 32 seconds behind race leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) and eight seconds behind current runner-up Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
As for the three big upcoming stages, Froome argued, "I'm where I need to be, I think, but the truth will come out once I hit the climbs. So far, I'm feeling good, I think I've had a pretty good start to the race, and I'm looking forward to getting to the business side of it. We've had a few transition stages that have been stressful and difficult to get through and it'll be good to get into the racing side of it again."
Asked about Alberto Contador's crash and how badly that might affect the Tinkoff rider, Froome replied, "Obviously it depends how severe the injuries are, but I mean a crash is never something that's good for days to come. It's always going to have a knock-on effect. Let's see, there have been a lot of crashes these days."
As for the next three days of mountainous or semi-mountainous racing, Team Sky principle David Brailsford argued to Cyclingnews, "We'll take them as a block. These are difficult and potentially decisive stages, and we'll know a bit more tomorrow night.
"Chris knows the [stage 8] climb. He knows Covadonga [stage 10 finish] as well" - from 2012, where Froome struggled but clung on tenaciously to lose 35 seconds to Contador and Valverde, and from 2014, when he lost seven seconds to Contador. "We're ready for it, and with his confidence high, then he'll be looking forward to it."
Brailsford said Kwiatkowski had suffered from a saddle sore "and that had made it difficult for him to get a good position on his bike, which meant he maybe overcompensated and it had knock-on effects on his back. He tried to keep going today but that was that.
"It's really unfortunate and hopefully he'll bounce back soon."
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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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