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by Shane Stokes
January 14, 2015
Having been beaten by Alberto Contador during last year’s Vuelta a España, Chris Froome has said that he is psyched by the thoughts of the rider he considers to be his greatest rival and driven to dig in harder during training rides in order to be able to beat him.
Like his Spanish rival, the Team Sky leader went into the Spanish Grand Tour with less racing in his legs than would otherwise have been ideal. Both riders crashed out of the Tour de France due to injury; Froome fractured his wrist and hand, while Contador suffered a crack to his fibula.
The latter initially said that he wouldn’t be able to ride the Vuelta a España but, following reports that he was back training earlier than either he or the team had suggested, he indeed went to the race and won overall.
Froome battled hard to try to overcome his rival but had to be satisfied with second overall, one minute ten seconds back. However, rather than being intimidated by what he saw, he said that he can accept the result without believing it will set a lasting precedent.
“He was coming back from injury, too. He just came back better than me,” he told the Telegraph. “But I still think it was a fantastic race. It was great to be able to race like that in the mountains.”
Froome has been using the memory of that race to motivate himself during the off season, knowing the best way to react to Contador’s triumph is to beat the Spaniard in this year’s Tour.
“When I’m out training, I am thinking: ‘I wonder what he’s up to today, I wonder how hard he’s training.’ I always assume he is [training], somewhere in snowy, wet Lugano. It pushes me to train harder, definitely.”
Froome won the Tour in 2013 and last July saw Vincenzo Nibali succeed him as the final yellow jersey. His biggest season focus is to take the Maillot Jaune to Paris once again and, unlike Contador, he will stake everything on that race rather than riding the Giro d’Italia as well.
Still, despite not achieving his goals in 2014, he said that he is feeling less stress than he did twelve months ago.
“I feel I don’t have nearly the same kind of pressure I had last year. Last year, through the winter, it was very much: ‘OK, you’ve won the Tour. Now you’ve got to try to do it again. You have to stay focused, you have to stay on it. Everyone’s banking on you doing this,’ he said.
“It felt a bit overwhelming at times. This year I feel like we’re all starting from scratch. The Tour de France is where we want to get to, we’ve got an amazing team to support that goal and there’s nothing stopping us. It feels good.”
Froome’s Sky team had a somewhat stagnant look to it at times last year, with the number of results down on previous years. This has led the team Principal Dave Brailsford to make a number of new signings and, according to Froome, riders such as Leopold Konig, Wout Poels and Nicolas Roche coming on board has made a big difference to the feeling of the team and the mood of optimism.
He said that both he and the team are fired up to turn things around and clock up a stellar 2015. Contador and Nibali have the same goals but, at this point in time, Froome sounds confident and believes he can get back on top.