Voyage of discovery
Brailsford hails 'breakthrough' performance
By Jonathan Turner. Last Updated: 16/09/11 11:47am
Froome: His win on stage 17 was the highlight of a memorable Vuelta a Espana
Chris Froome was keen to pay tribute to others as he reflected on his momentous display at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Briton produced what Team Principal Dave Brailsford called a "breakthrough performance" in the season's final Grand Tour as he finished in second place overall, just 13 seconds behind Juan José Cobo.
Froome had a day in the leader's red jersey after the time trial on stage 10 and he then notched the biggest victory of his career so far with an epic win over Cobo on the mountain-top finish at Pena Cabarga on stage 17.
His achievement was all the more praiseworthy as he spent much of the race riding for team leader Bradley Wiggins who himself claimed an outstanding third place just eight weeks after breaking his collarbone at the Tour de France, with Froome and Wiggins the first British riders to make the podium in a Grand Tour since Robert Millar in 1987.
Voyage of discovery
Speaking to skysports.com 24 hours after the Vuelta's finale in Madrid, Froome admitted: "I came into the race hoping to be there for Bradley in the mountains and I had no idea I would be riding on the general classification after three weeks. I think riding for Bradley kept me in that select front group and in a position to be able to do a good GC.
"Over the last week when it became clear that my early form and time trial performance were not one-off results I really began to enjoy myself and came to the realisation that I can now compete with some of the best GC riders in the world."
When asked what he put that down to he was keen to credit Wiggins and Race Coach Bobby Julich for their contributions, adding: "I think that the biggest thing about riding alongside Bradley is that it's taught me to be more conservative with my energy and to use it where it really counts. Previously I think that if I'd been in that select group in the mountains I'd maybe have got a bit carried away and tried to attack too early.
"Whereas riding with Bradley I've learned to be a lot more constrained on the bike and I really just save it until the last moments when I know I can make a difference and where the race is going to be decided.
"Bobby too has played a really big part in getting me ready for the Vuelta and helping me move forward through the whole season. He's staying in Nice which is just 15km down the road from where I am in Monaco. We've done a lot together and meet quite often to talk about training plans and so on. Obviously Bobby has done his time in the peloton and there's a wealth of knowledge that comes with that."
Froome's heroics throughout the three weeks in Spain have helped confirm the self-belief that he can thrive in the world's biggest races.
He explained: "It's always been a bit of a long-term dream to be able to ride GC and to really try and be up there in the Grand Tours. And this Vuelta for me has definitely provided a bit of a benchmark. It's hopefully consolidated that this is where I'm going with my career and that this is the path I should be taking in terms of how I need to be riding in the future."
And when asked to nominate the moment he remembers most, Froome had no hesitation as he said: "The highlight for me was definitely winning at the top of the Pena Cabarga climb on stage 17; my family were there and it was a special day which will live long in my memory.
"Hopefully I've done something good for the team but I wouldn't have been in this position if it wasn't for everyone else. The other riders have worked so hard over the last three weeks to keep myself and Bradley protected. The support staff and the people behind the scenes were also amazing and they don't get enough credit for what they do. It's them that have got us here and I'm so happy that myself and Bradley finished on the podium."