Chris Froome says that he has ‘unfinished business’ at the Vuelta a España, where he returns aiming to become just the third rider to win both the Vuelta and Tour de France in the same season.
Only Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault have previously achieved the Tour/Vuelta ‘double’, a feat no rider has accomplished since the Vuelta a España was moved to become the last of each year’s three Grand Tours back in 1995.
There will be a strong Team Sky line-up when the race kicks off with a team time trial in Nîmes on Saturday August 19 – Chris Froome, Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve, Diego Rosa, David Lopez, Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio, Ian Stannard and Christian Knees.
Froome, the four-time Tour de France champion, says that the team’s approach to this year’s Vuelta has given him reason to be optimistic about his chances of back-to-back Grand Tour victories.
“It certainly feels as if I’ve got unfinished business with this race. I’ve finished second three times now, but I’ve got a good feeling about this year’s Vuelta. It feels like we’re on much more of a mission this year, and aiming for the Tour/Vuelta double this season has been a huge motivation.
“I don’t think we’ve been to the Vuelta a España with a team as strong as we’ve got this year.”
Froome, though, is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge – and the harsh conditions the Vuelta offers up to riders.
“It’s a race I love doing, but it’s relentless. The course is always a lot more mountainous than the Tour de France and the conditions are tougher. Being mid-August in Spain, it’s quite common to have temperatures up in the mid 40s. It’s absolutely brutal.
“One thing that really sets the Vuelta apart from other races is where it is in the season. You have this mixture of riders who have targeted the Vuelta specifically, and others who are coming off a big season already.
“Typically, it’s a very aggressive race and a very punchy style of racing, which always makes for great viewing for the fans.”
Team Sky’ Manager Dave Brailsford underlined the importance that the team attached to this year’s race. He said:
“Every Vuelta is important as it is a Grand Tour but this year we are more motivated than ever to try to win it. I believe this Vuelta can be a defining moment for Team Sky and for Chris Froome.
“Only two riders have done the Tour/Vuelta double in the same season – Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault in 1978. This year Chris has the chance to write history alongside them and cement his place as one of the all-time greats of the sport.
“But we know from experience just how tough and competitive the Vuelta is as a race. This year is no different with one of the very hardest mountain top finishes on the Angliru on the penultimate stage.
“We go into the race with Chris supported by another group of very talented riders. It is great to have Wout Poels back after injury and it is an opportunity for him to put his mark on the season after a challenging year. Gianni Moscon will also be riding his first Grand Tour. He is an exciting talent with a lot to offer the team.
“I was very proud of how we rode the Tour this year – the teamwork and the way our riders supported each other was exceptional. This group go into the race with the same mindset and we will give them every support we can to help them succeed together.”
The Team Sky line-up for this year’s Vuelta a España is:
Chris Froome – British – age 32
Chris Froome returns to the Vuelta a España, where he has been runner up three times in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Froome has spoken about his desire to win his first Vuelta title and has purposefully designed his 2017 season around peaking later in the campaign. Having earned a historic fourth Tour victory in July the 32-year-old has never been better placed to go for the Grand Tour double.
Christian Knees – German – age 36
Fresh off signing a new contract with the team, Christian Knees lines up at his second Grand Tour of the year, hoping to replicate the success he and Chris Froome enjoyed in July. The German is a powerful presence on the flat, but also a very able climber and experienced road captain. Having ridden the last four editions of the Vuelta for Team Sky, the former German national champion knows what the race is all about.
David Lopez – Spanish – age 36
Lining up for his 16th Grand Tour (and seventh Vuelta a España), David Lopez brings experience to the team. Lopez is no stranger to success at the Vuelta, winning a stage solo in 2010 as part of a breakaway that stayed clear. He was also in the team last year to help Froome to a runner-up spot in Madrid, and was in the Tour de France team in 2013 as the Brit claimed his first Grand Tour victory. The unflappable Spaniard will be a key asset in the mountains.
Gianni Moscon – Italian – age 23
Whether impressing in the sport’s toughest Classics or winning stage races in his own right, Gianni Moscon has staked his claim as one of cycling’s top young prospects. The talented Italian will make his Grand Tour debut in Spain, and arrives at the race off the back of a strong climbing showing at the recent Vuelta a Burgos, where he helped Mikel Landa to overall victory.
Wout Poels – Dutch – age 29
Troubled by a knee injury early in the 2017 season, Wout Poels just missed out on selection for the Tour de France, but he’s back firing and determined to perform well at the Vuelta a España. The Dutchman enjoys a close relationship with Chris Froome and he played a big part in Froome’s 2015 and 2016 Tour de France victories. The pair will hope to combine to successful effect yet again in Spain.
Salvatore Puccio – Italian – age 27
The versatile Italian has been improving year on year since joining the team back in 2012. Now on the verge of his eighth Grand Tour appearance, Puccio has proven he can play a role on flat, rolling or mountain roads. He will turn 28 during the race, and came within a whisker of a stage victory in the 2015 edition of the Vuelta. His Classics know-how should also prove key in the hustle and bustle of a peloton fighting for position.
Mikel Nieve – Spanish – age 33
Consistently one of the best pure climbers in the peloton, Mikel Nieve provides a key presence in the high mountains of any Grand Tour. Kicking off his 14th Grand Tour, the Basque rider arrives at the Vuelta alongside Chris Froome fresh off a winning three weeks in July, and will be hoping for more of the same in a race he knows well. A stage winner in both the Vuelta and Giro d’Italia, Nieve also claimed the mountains jersey in the Giro last year.
Diego Rosa – Italian – age 28
Diego Rosa has enjoyed an encouraging first campaign with Team Sky and is set for his second Grand Tour of the season after riding the Giro d’Italia. The tenacious Italian – who finished 20th at the Vuelta a España in 2015 – heads into the race off a strong performance at the Tour of Poland and will form a key part of Chris Froome’s support group in the high mountains.
Ian Stannard – British – age 30
One of the best all-rounders in the sport, Ian Stannard is just as comfortable tearing up the Cobbled Classics as he is setting tempo in the heat of a Grand Tour. The Brit’s pedigree in three-week races is clear, having been a key part for Chris Froome’s first three Tour de France victories. The two-time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner will be pressed into action to make sure the team are positioned on the flat and heading onto the early climbs.