Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished second overall in the Vuelta a España, just 13 seconds behind Juan José Cobo (Geox-TMC) but he has no regrets about failing to topple the Spaniard after attacking almost every day in the last week.
"He held onto a 13 second gap really well. I had my opportunity to take it from him in the mountains but he defended it well and kept me there all the way through. Hats off to him, he's ridden a really good race," the Kenyan-born Briton told Cyclingnews in a video interview in Madrid.
Cobo's winning margin is the third smallest in the history of the Vuelta. He won thanks to picking up 52 seconds in time bonuses on four different stages. Froome picked up just one 20-second time bonus when he won stage 17 to Peña Cabarga. Earlier in the race, Froome worked to help teammate Bradley Wiggins instead of focusing 100% on his own race. However, he is happy to accept how the Vuelta evolved, knowing that grand tours are not just about simply adding up the seconds.
“It would be great if it was as simple as that,” he said. “Time bonuses are there for a race to be more exciting but it didn't play in my favour this time around. I can only say that I don’t really agree that so much time bonus is given at mountain top finishes, but we all know the rules prior to racing and we have to race accordingly."
"You can always look back and say: 'Maybe we should have done something differently earlier on.' But that's how the race panned out. I came here to work for Bradley and that's normal, that racing."
The start of a successful stage race career
Froome knows that his second's place and his consistent riding throughout the Vuelta have changed his career forever. He believes it could be just the start of a successful career as a grand tour stage racer.
"It's given me the self confidence to know I can ride a grand tour for GC. And I think it's taught me a lot going forward, about how I need to ride," he said.
"I don’t need to looking at breakaways or making stupid efforts when it's not necessary. If I ride a lot like Bradley – because I've learnt a lot from him in the last few weeks – I'll be able to do the same thing again."
Froome's performance and steady nerve under pressure has attracted the attention of some of the best teams in the peloton, who are now trying to convince him to leave Team Sky. His Italian agent Alex Carera is known for his tough negotiating with teams and was in Madrid to see Froome climb on the podium. He is due to explain all the contract offers that have arrived to Froome before both leave Madrid on Monday.
Cyclingnews understands that Team Sky has offered Froome an innovative five-year deal that could help him develop as a grand tour contender over time. Froome refused to reveal if he will stay at Team Sky or accept one of the many other and perhaps more lucrative offers on the table.
"My future has still to be decided, nothing has been confirmed. I hope to have an answer in the next week or so," he said before heading for a deserved night out in Madrid with his father, who had followed him during the final week of his successful Vuelta.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.