Former Team Sky rider Mikel Landa, now with Movistar, says that Chris Froome is a welcome presence at the Vuelta a Andalucia - Ruta del Sol stage race, where the Briton will make his debut to the 2018 season.
On Tuesday evening Froome arrived at the team hotel near Malaga in southern Spain prior to the race's start on Wednesday in the nearby town of Mijas. Although he stopped briefly for photographs before going in for dinner he did not speak to journalists.
Froome's participation in the five-day stage race has proved controversial in some quarters - although he has been supported in others - given his Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol last year, and there have been repeated calls for his suspension. However, Team Sky state that since the Briton is under no kind of suspension he is able to race.
To judge from his comments on Tuesday evening, Landa would appear to be in agreement with Sky. "Froome has followed all the rules, [so] he can compete," Landa told Spanish sports daily AS. "He's welcome here."
Landa, like Froome, will be making his debut in the 2018 season in the five-day Ruta del Sol. The Basque rider finished sixth in the race last year, prior to taking part in the Giro d'Italia, where he took the King of the Mountains jersey, before finishing fourth behind Froome in the Tour de France, just one second off the podium.
Having signed with Movistar during the off-season, the Ruta del Sol will be the first time that Landa and his former team leader will cross swords in different squads. But, he told AS, "I have no special feelings about racing against Chris as a rival.
"It's just another challenge in my career and I want to do this well."
Landa had previously opted to reserve judgement on the Froome case, saying at the Movistar team launch in mid-December, "Let's be cautious and see what happens."
Speaking at the same time, Landa's teammate Alejandro Valverde, five times a winner of the Ruta del Sol, and a notable absentee this year, had proved to be a little more forthright, saying "he [Froome] has to explain what happened…he's Chris Froome, and his test came back with double the level that is permitted."
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