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by Dane Cash
October 21, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
The Ineos Grenadiers came into the Vuelta a España with two Grand Tour stars. One day into the race, it is clear who the team will back for the rest of the race.
Richard Carapaz nabbed runner-up honors on Tuesday’s challenging opening stage. Chris Froome finished over 11 minutes down.
“For me personally, I got a bit caught out coming into the penultimate climb and started pretty far back and was stuck behind the crash at the bottom there, but I’m really happy to be here, really happy to be racing a Grand Tour again after two years of not doing any Grand Tours,” Froome said after the opening stage.
“I’m just going to take the race day-by-day and try and do as much for the team throughout the race.”
The day marked Froome’s first day of Grand Tour racing in over two years. The seven-time Grand Tour winner saw his 2019 season derailed by a serious crash, and he was not selected to the Ineos Tour de France squad this August.
Coming into this Vuelta, Froome said that Ineos’s team was built to support Carapaz, and any lingering question marks about the team’s leadership were resolved on Tuesday, where it was apparent that Froome is not yet back to the form that carried him to so many Grand Tour triumphs in the past. He was dropped on the penultimate climb even as Ineos set the tempo at the front of the race, and arrived at the finish 11:12 back.
“My sensations are good but I’m still missing a bit of that top-end from not having raced much but it’s definitely an improvement and I hope to keep building later into the race,” Froome said.
For now, in what is his final race with the Ineos organization that saw him emerge as one of the most successful riders of his generation before he heads to Israel Start-Up Nation next season, Froome is committed to working for Carapaz.
The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner looked sharp on stage 1 of the Vuelta, finishing behind only overall defending champion Primoz Roglic on a difficult day in the mountains.
“Great day for us with Richard coming in second, right up there,” Froome said of the first day of the race. “He’s our team leader here and we’re going to be helping him as much as we can throughout the race to try to get him the victory overall.