Twice on the opening stage of the Vuelta a España, first on the penultimate climb of the Alto de Elgeta, and then again on the final slog to the finish at Arrate, Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers) lost touch with the GC contenders.
Although the two-time Vuelta winner lost more than 11 minutes to stage winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma) and a handful of Slovenian rivals, after more than two years of absence from the discipline he had dominated for many years, Froome was pleased to be back on the Grand Tour.
After his career-threatening accident at the Critérium du Dauphiné last June, the 35-year-old had a three-week hiatus from racing. The comeback trail has been long and arduous ever since, and this summer he missed out on a spot on the Tour de France.
At the end of the year, he will leave Ineos for Israel Start-Up Country, but although he has yet to put in a performance in line with his previous best, it seems that the Vuelta experience is about building towards 2021.
“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 but I’m really happy to be here and 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 four-time winner of the Tour de France acknowledged that he was still not at his previous best, but that to try and improve, he would use the Vuelta. He would also want to show-maybe more to himself-that he can contend with the best in the mountains, along with consistency and good teamwork. A tilt at a stage win would be the perfect tonic at this point.