Vuelta a Espana: Froome advocates three-second rule for flat stages

Vuelta a España leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) has said that a rule introduced experimentally in the 2017 Tour de France, whereby late splits in the peloton only count when there are gaps of more than three seconds, should be used in all races, including the Vuelta.

This summer the Tour de France saw a rule introduced which meant that rather than the usual one-second gap counting between late splits in the peloton, gaps had to be more than three seconds. Froome argued, in his leader's press conference after stage 4 of the Vuelta, that this should be the case in more races than just the Tour.

"I for one feel that having the three-second rule, as we did in the Tour de France, made things a lot safer. It's something I'd like to see come back in, especially to finishes like today that are so technical and dangerous," Froome said.

"I believe it makes the race at the front a lot safer. No one wants the GC guys to be up there sprinting. The sprinters don't want us up there. We don't want to be there, but obviously we have to be up there.

"So in my opinion, we should bring back the three-second rule, and all of the riders I've spoken to are of the same opinion. That's maybe one for the commisssaires and the UCI."

Cyclingnews understands that the UCI is currently reviewing the rule.

As for leading the Vuelta so early on, Froome argued that in general it was "always better to race from the front, because I like the idea of being in a more defensive position. Today was obviously all about that in the final. It was quite a tricky run-in. My team-mates did a great job of keeping me up there. With the risks of splits, it was important to stay up front.

"As it stands there are a lot guys still in contention, Esteban [Chaves] is still very strong strong on the climbs, and Vincenzo [Nibali] winning the stage is obviously in great shape as well."

Froome agreed that his team-mate Wout Poels, who had come into the race with high hopes of racing as Sky's Plan B, had been unhappy with his own performance in Andorra, losing 1:39 to Froome and the other favourites.

"It's fair to say he's a bit disappointed not to be right up there at the sharp end. But just going on previous experience with Wout in the past in Grand Tours, he always rides into the race, and in the second and third week he's always really strong. I've got no doubt he will get back to his best pretty soon. It was also that he suffered a bit with the heat as well maybe. But hopefully he will get used to that and improve as the race goes on."

Froome, meanwhile, will tackle another summit finish on Wednesday. The final climb is a short, punchy and very steep three-kilometre third-category climb to the Santa Lucia Hermitage, one with ramps of up to 20 percent, a middle section averaging around 15 percent, and never previously used before in the race. It is preceded by a 'medium mountain' stage, with three second-category ascents and over 2,700 metres of vertical climbing.

Froome said that – given the Vuelta had not tackled it before – he had no idea yet what the Ermita Santa Lucia climb would actually be like.

"I'll study it a bit more this evening, and we'll do everything we can to protect the red jersey at this point," he promised.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.