Vuelta a Andalucia organiser Joaquin Cuevas says Chris Froome (Team Sky) has yet to confirm that he will return to the early-season five-day stage race, which the Briton won in spectacular fashion in 2015.
Contrary to headlines in the Spanish press on Wednesday, which made it look as if Froome was certain to race in Andalucia for a third time in his career, Cuevas told Cyclingnews that “as yet, nothing is decided. We don’t yet have the list of seven riders and three reserve riders from Team Sky.”
Cuevas was reported as saying on Tuesday that Froome “will come” and “all that is lacking is the final signature,” but he told Cyclingnews that he had been misinterpreted.
“We would love to have him back, but as yet Sky haven’t decided on their program for that part of the calendar,” Cuevas said on Thursday. He hoped to have Sky’s long list for the Vuelta a Andalucia in “the next few days.”
Team Sky could not be reached for comment.
Froome claimed his first victory of the season this February in Andalucia, in an intense and dramatic five-day battle against Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), winning the race overall by two seconds to achieve Britain’s first victory in the 90-year-old event. Having beaten Froome in the opening time trial, Contador then dropped Froome as heavy snow set in on the first mountain top finish of Hazallanas, only to lose time – and the race – to the Briton on the second summit finish near Jaén 24 hours later.
The double Tour de France winner is due to make his season debut in Australia’s Herald Sun Tour from February 3-7. Andalucia, running from February 17-21, could be Froome’s first race on European soil next year.
Froome would not, however, be facing Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) for a repeat of their spectacular duel of 2015. Contador is all but certain to start his season at the Volta ao Algarve, which runs concurrently with Andalucia. For now, Rafael Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) are two of the star figures due to be taking part in the Spanish race.
The 2016 Vuelta a Andalucia itself starts with a rolling 157-kilometre stage through the hills of northwest Andalucia from Almonaster la Real to Seville. But the decisive stages are likely to be stage four’s 21-kilometre individual time trial near Malaga and the final summit finish 24 hours later on February 21 at the Alto de Peñas Blancas, a steady but not excessively steep 20-kilometre climb near the Mediterranean coastal resort of Estepona.
Alto de Peñas Blancas made its previous appearance in a bike race when it featured as a summit finish on stage eight of the 2013 Vuelta a España, with victory going to Froome’s Sky team-mate Leopold Konig, then racing for NettApp-Endura, while Sky’s Nicolas Roche, then riding for Tinkoff-Saxo, briefly took the overall lead.