Vuelta a España winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) has said that one day he will have to target the Giro d'Italia, but he remains uncertain of when this will happen and said the Tour de France remains the "huge objective" for 2017.
Asked in a press conference late on Sunday evening after he had won the Vuelta what his next challenge will be, Froome said, "Obviously it's very early to say, and of course the Giro has come up in question a few times. I'm not going to say no, I'm going to have an open mind about next season, and over the winter I'll come up with a plan for next year, but one year I'm going to have to target the Giro d'Italia."
He then qualified that almost instantly, saying, "A fifth Tour de France victory would be a huge objective for me next year, so I have to keep that in mind."
As for battling for the points jersey right up to the end, Froome argued that it was something of a risk going for it in the final sprint.
"But at the end of the day, I'm a bike racer, and this is probably the only opportunity I'll get to win the points classification of a Grand Tour in my career, and I thought 'why not?' When I wake up tomorrow morning, I want to be sure I gave it everything."
He also paid tribute to Quick-Step Floor's Matteo Trentin, who lost the ranking by two points, saying, "I know how difficult it was for the sprinters, and one of the reasons that not so many sprinters came was that there were not many sprint stages, it was pretty much 21 stages of GC racing, so I have to sympathize with him."
Explaining once why this victory is so special, he pointed out that this is the first time anybody has won the Tour and then gone on to do the Vuelta, "and it's a huge challenge from an athletic point of view to try and be at that level for such a long time. At this moment, I couldn't be happier."
Froome made a point, too, of thanking teammate Mikel Nieve, who will be moving on to Orica-Scott next year.
"He's been a part of almost all my victories, and I have to say a special thank you to Mikel Nieve. I couldn't ask for more from a teammate. He'll be missed at Team Sky."
The Briton added that this year's Vuelta had been the "hardest Grand Tour win of my career," something he had expanded on with a small group of British journalists prior to the final stage.
"There were a few transfer stages in the Tour. Here it's felt we've been on that knife edge every day," he said. "I think [my rivals] took every opportunity. Every single day somebody's gone for it and they did expose me on the one day I was extremely vulnerable, on los Machucos.
"I was suffering on that stage, I was flat from the time trial [the previous day], I didn't get so many time checks, I was really quite worried and I probably pushed more than I should have. And the next day I was empty, just flat."
It was only when Froome saw that Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who crashed and was struggling in the final kilometres of the Angliru, that he knew for certain that the 2017 Vuelta would be his.
"As soon as I saw Nibali, probably about two or three kilometres out, fighting it a bit, it was then that those emotions started. I thought 'I've got this, now, I've got this,' unless something drastic happens in the last few kilometres, then I should be safe," Froome said.
He had planned that if he and Sky team mate Wout Poels had caught Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) in the closing kilometres that he wanted Poels to go for the win.
"I was really hoping that we could take the stage," he said, although he agreed that it would not have gone down well with the Spanish fans.
Rather than the stage's finale, in some ways the Briton was more worried, Froome said, about the descents, particularly after Nibali's crash.
"I wasn't going to take risks. Alberto and [Trek teammate Jarlinson] Pantano started pushing it on the second descent before the Angliru and Nibali was just sat behind them. He tried to go after them and he slid out and went pretty much under the railing as well.
"And that shook me a bit I was like, 'Woah, this is super slippery here, I'm not going to take those risks, being in the position I'm in.' I'd rather give them 30 seconds."
As for the Angliru, Froome had practiced tackling ultra-steep climbs, he said, on the mountains in the Alps before the Vuelta. He and Tim Kerrison, his trainer, tried their best to find the hardest ones they could in order to simulate the difficult ascents in the Grand Tour.
"We had some really amusing training sessions where Tim did just find these narrow goat tracks, partly gravel and over 20 percent up the side of a mountain, and we simulated and we’d make a big effort going into the climb, mimicking a bunch coming into the climb, and a full gas effort from bottom to top."
Riding the World Championships
As he said in the main press conference, Froome has yet to make a decision about the time trial in Norway and will take some days to do so, although there is a very high possibility he will race the team time trial.
Froome has been one of the main protagonists of this year's Vuelta, but there can be little doubt about who Spain's key participant has been and the cheering for Contador from thousands of his supporters and fans in Madrid, continued to resound through the press media tent hours after the Vuelta had finished and even as Froome was talking in his final press conference of the race
Speaking earlier this weekend, Froome said that he hoped that when he retired he could pull down the curtain on his career in the same way as Alberto Contador.
"It's pretty romantic and commendable, what Alberto did today, being his last ever race and he's so competitive and so fierce. What a way to end his career. If I can do that when I decide to call it quits, I'd be chuffed to bits."
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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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