Even with the Olympic cycling still underway things are getting back to normal elsewhere with the announcement of teams for the last Grand Tour of the year. The 67th edition of the Vuelta a Espana starts in Pamplona on Saturday 18 August with Team Sky led by Chris Froome. This is in contrast to last year when he played support to Bradley Wiggins.
Apart from this being a big thank you from the team for his selfless efforts in the Tour de France it should also be seen as an indicator of Sky Team strategy for next season. Wiggins and Froome rode the Vuelta last year and made a hash of a winning position to finish second and third. There were also moments in the Tour when Froome and Wiggins didn’t seem in tactical sync. Sky will not want a repeat but maybe this tells us more about Wiggins plans for the future than that of his team.
Wiggins has repeatedly remarked on the adverse impact of cycling on family life when asked about how many Tours he might win and how many Olympics he might attend. Our guess is that he’ll focus exclusively on the Tour de France for at least 2 more seasons and have a crack at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Whatever the future holds he definitely won’t feature in this years Spanish Grand Tour where Froome will be looking to improve upon last year’s second place. He’ll be joined in an incredibly strong nine-man squad by Juan Antonio Flecha, Sergio Henao, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Rigoberto Urán and Xabier Zandio.
Urán won the young rider’s classification on his way to a career-best seventh overall in May’s Giro d’Italia and was the Olympic road race silver medallist. Colombian compatriot Sergio Henao achieved podium finishes in his last two races (the Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne) and also donned the Giro’s white jersey in his first season in the pro ranks. They’ll be joined by more experienced riders in Australia’s Porte, Spaniards Zandio and Flecha (riding his 17th Grand Tour), British national champion Stannard and America’s Pate. Brit Ben Swift is the team’s designated sprinter.
So Sky will go into the race as favourites with the strongest squad. According to Sports Director Nicolas Portal “We’ve got every base covered with this line up. We have Olympic medallists, amazing climbers, some really strong guys on the flat, and a very fast sprinter”.
And, maybe in light of the last years debacle, Froome stated that “I’m going to do the best job I can and do whatever’s required of me from the team. Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them. We’re sending a first-rate squad and it should be a really exciting race.”