A solid but not stand-out ride by Chris Froome saw the Briton take 10th in his first time trial of year in the Vuelta a Andalucia on Wednesday. The 2013 Tour de France champion finished eight seconds slower than arch-rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 14 seconds down on stage winner Javi Moreno (Movistar) in a technical time trial at Coria del Rio.
“That was a good way to blow out the cobwebs, a pretty technical, pretty fast time trial,” Froome said after warming down outside the Sky team bus following his ride.
“It’s nice to have a time trial in the first race of the season and given the kind of training I’ve been doing, I’m happy with what I achieved.
“I know I lost time to Alberto, he’s the most notable guy ahead of me but we’re still in February and still building up, so I’m happy with that.
“I didn’t take any risks, I used the straights to open up the legs and they felt good, now we’ll have to see how it goes in the mountains.”
Froome hinted that his preparation could be geared to a slower build-up to the season, given that he is looking towards the Tour. However, in previous years that has not stopped him from hitting the ground running with back-to-back wins in the Tour of Oman in 2013 – defeating, amongst others, Contador – and 2014.
“All of us have objectives much later in the season, Alberto’s are a bit sooner with the Giro, he definitely seems to be in good shape.”
Froome pointed out that the morning’s split sector also represented a good test “because it was so sketchy with the crosswinds. It’s all good experience in the bank and good racing miles.”
After finishing in the front group of 40 riders in Wednesday morning’s sector following a very strong collective performance by Sky in the closing kilometres, Froome now lies fourth overall, eight seconds behind Contador. While Vasil Kiryenka was a second faster than the Briton, he did not make the front group in the morning, unlike Sky’s Pete Kennaugh, who also turned in a very strong time trial, completing the course just four seconds down on Froome.
At 12 seconds down on Contador, the Isle of Man rider could represent a ‘Plan B’ for Sky should Froome falter. But with two major mountain stages to come, Froome says there is still everything to play for in the overall.
“I’m going to keep going for it, the team is behind me all the way here and they did a fantastic job this morning. It’s good for us to be practicing how to ride in different situations, and if there’s anything we can take away, that’s going to be one thing.”