Chris Froome cautious of hopes of Vuelta a Espana victory before final race for Ineos

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File photo dated 03-05-2019 of Chris Froome of Team Ineos. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday July 9, 2020. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is leaving Team Ineos at the end of the season, the team have announce - PA/Martin Rickett File photo dated 03-05-2019 of Chris Froome of Team Ineos. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday July 9, 2020. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is leaving Team Ineos at the end of the season, the team have announce - PA/Martin Rickett 
File photo dated 03-05-2019 of Chris Froome of Team Ineos. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday July 9, 2020. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is leaving Team Ineos at the end of the season, the team have announce – PA/Martin Rickett 
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Chris Froome has played down expectations ahead of the start of the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday, his final race for Ineos Grenadiers.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”17″>Chris Froome has played down expectations ahead of the start of the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday, his final race for Ineos Grenadiers

The seven-time grand tour winner says the team will look to support Ecuadorean Richard Carapaz while he takes it “one day at a time” as he tries to work out where his form is.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Froome, 35, will join Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 as part of a three-year deal that ends his decade-long association with Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky). He had hoped to finish his time at Ineos with a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title. However, after returning from a career-threatening crash at last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, he was some way off his best when racing resumed in August post-lockdown.” data-reactid=”19″>Froome, 35, will join Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 as part of a three-year deal that ends his decade-long association with Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky). He had hoped to finish his time at Ineos with a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title. However, after returning from a career-threatening crash at last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, he was some way off his best when racing resumed in August post-lockdown.

It was felt that Froome and Ineos would be better served if he had a further two months to prepare for a tilt at the Vuelta. 

The selection of 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz alongside him gives the team a second leader in case Froome is unable to reach his previous levels. 

“It’s quite hard to say where I am at the moment, I haven’t done many stage races recently,” Froome, a two-time Vuelta winner, said in a press call. “The signs in training have been better and better and I’m feeling more like my old self again which is fantastic, but it’s hard to quantify that.

“I haven’t been able to race and see where I’m at against my rivals. I’m going take the first few days to see exactly where I’m at from that point and I’ll be able to have a clear plan for the rest of the race and know exactly what job I can fulfil at that point.”

Frome won his first grand tour at the 2011 Vuelta, although he did not know it at the time as the winner was subsequently disqualified. He admitted to feeling “mixed emotions” ahead of his final race for the team. 

“It is certainly strange thinking that I won’t be in Ineos colors in a few months’ time,” he said. “After 11 years, it’s all coming down to the Vuelta again. We’ve got a great team here to support Richard as much as possible. I’m going to take it one day at a time, and hopefully finish it on a high note.”

A shortened race — just 18 stages — features what looks to be an incredibly tough route with eight summit finishes in total. 

The first stage finishes atop the Arrate, traditionally the most prestigious finale of the Itzulia in April. The race will head over to France and take in the famed Tourmalet — weather permitting, which is no guarantee in late October — at the end of the second week. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It is a high quality field, too, with Jumbo-Visma, having missed out in agonising fashion at the Tour when Primoz Roglic was usurped by his fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar in the penultimate day time trial, again looking the team to beat. Roglic, Tom Dumoulin, Sepp Kuss, Robert Gesink and George Bennett have all been named in their line-up.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”32″>It is a high quality field, too, with Jumbo-Visma, having missed out in agonising fashion at the Tour when Primoz Roglic was usurped by his fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar in the penultimate day time trial, again looking the team to beat. Roglic, Tom Dumoulin, Sepp Kuss, Robert Gesink and George Bennett have all been named in their line-up. 

Other General Classification contenders include Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas (both Movistar).