Friday Group Ride #131

The Vuelta starts tomorrow, and, if we accept the dominant storyline that this steep Tour at the desperate end of the season is only a showdown between Sky’s Chris Froome and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Alberto Contador, then this week’s Group Ride is pretty simple. Who will win, the domestique, straining at his leash, or the returning master of the modern grand tour?

One view is that Contador will win because that’s what he does when the tour is grand. No one on the planet can stay with him when the road goes up and he’s in good form. But is he in good form? Last week’s Eneco Tour would suggest he’s going pretty well, but is it good enough to win in Spain?

The other view is that nothing can stop Chris Froome’s rise to the top of the sport, except perhaps a firm but quiet word in his earpiece from a DS who doesn’t want to see the flying domestique upstage his team leader. Like Contador, Froome excels in the steep. He is able to jump, to find another gear when he needs it. The question is whether he’s had enough time to rest and recover from the Tour and then the Olympics, and then to build his legs again for a three week race.

Of course, there will be other GC contenders showing up, trying to wriggle their way onto the podium. Defending champ JJ Cobo showed last year that he can hang pretty well in the mountains, and Team Movistar will also have Alejandro Valverde along, should Cobo falter.

Rabobank’s Robert Gesink is a rider on the brink. He might not have the change of speed the others have, but he’s a world class climber, and this is certainly a climber’s race. Other’s who might factor include AG2R La Mondiale’s John Gadret, Euskatel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton and Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez.

So have at it. This week’s Group Ride asks: If it’s either Froome or Conatador, which one? And if not them, then who will be the one to confound the commentators?


Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Ransom

    I want it to be Froome. Maybe it’s too tidy for him to get a glorious reward so close on the heels of his TdF showing of power and reliability, but it would be satisfying.

    Will it be so? I really couldn’t say, sir.

  2. bigwagon

    I’d like to think that the story lines for the Vuelta will be more complicated than Contador vs Froome, but I hoped the same thing about the Tour (Wiggins vs the world) and it really was that simple. So I’ll say you are correct, it’s Contador vs. Froome, and my bet is on the Spaniard. I suppose that is going against the conventional wisdom that Sky has it all figured out.

  3. Nelson

    I have a hard time predicting Grand Tours. Not with the process, I think Froome has everything it takes to break the Spaniard. I just think of 3 weeks on the bike and remember that the greatest can fall, literally.

  4. rashadabd

    I like Froome’s form right now and how exceptional his performaces have been in the moutnains and time trialing lately, but I wonder about his conditioning with back to back grand tours. He clearly laid it all on the line in the TdF and the Olympics followed that. Is that too much? I don’t know, but I’m still picking him to win it.

    Alberto should be well rested, but he has also has been out of competition for a while, so it will be interesting to see where he is at mentally & physically when we start hit the late stages of the Vuelta. He certainly has all the reason/motivation in the world to make a statement though. I wouldn’t count out guys like Gesink, Valverde and Cobo, etc. This seems like a course where they could thrive. I personally am also excited to see how Talansky performs (Garmin Sharp fan) in his first GC role for a grand tour.

  5. Paul I.

    I’m hoping for Igor Anton, but expecting Contador to ride away with it. I’d like to think that Froome will give him a good fight, but, as has been noted, he’s coming off a hard Tour. If Froome falters, perhaps Henao might pick up the slack for Sky? And don’t forget Bauke Mollema. He just missed the podium last year. Thomas De Gendt should also be well rested from his Giro heroics.

  6. Champs

    Don’t let it be Froome. I’ve already heard enough about British cycling, and it’s long since cured me of any lingering effects of anglophilia.

  7. A Stray Velo

    I’m just excited for the possibility of some good racing. With 7 mountain top finishes it’s bound to be a good one.

    I like Froome but I think he’s too tired. Gesink is never a contender for me and I’m not quite sure he keeps getting mentioned when he gets dropped so often.

    I’m thinking Contador, he’s motivated. I’m thinking he’s timed his training to come into form right when he’ll need it during the tour. If not him then let it be some no name that upsets all the “favorites.”

    The tour was a snooze for me. I only watched the women’s road race during the Olympics, which was fantastic, but above all I just want to see some good racing action that seems to have been missing from this year. This is the last big chance to see it.

  8. Jesus from Cancun

    I don’t believe neither Froome or Contador will be at their best, but I am sure they will both try their best. Maybe Froome has done too much, Contador too little?

    I would like to see a good challenge from Henao, Gesink, Porte, De Gendt, Van den Broeck, even Cunego, for a change.

    We will see soon. I’m waiting for the Live Update window to open any time now…

  9. Big Mikey

    Not sure there is anyone else in the peleton capable of beating either Froome or Contador in a 3 week race. There are a lot of guys who can win any given day, but three weeks is a long race.

    That said, Champs said it pretty well, I’m tired of hearing how a swimming coach and (apparently) some revolutionary training methods have made team sky into world beaters. I’m still not sure how Porte and Rogers were so strong as to drop nearly the entire TdF field day after day.

  10. Pingback: Friday Group Ride #133 : Red Kite Prayer

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