Team Sky rider Luke Rowe has warned that Chris Froome might not be at his best at the Vuelta a Espana.
Froome has been named as the British squad’s leader for the season’s final Grand Tour, with Welshman Rowe one of eight team-mates who will support his bid for overall victory.
It will be Froome’s first race since being forced to abandon last month’s Tour de France on stage five with fractures to his left wrist and right hand.
Rowe is confident Froome can challenge for the winner’s red jersey, but with the likes of Alberto Contador and 2014 Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana also in contention, he is keen to temper expectations.
Rowe told Sky Sports News HQ: “In terms of Chris, we will take it day by day and week by week. We are heading into the unknown a little bit with him not racing for so long since the Tour de France.
“We are going with GC [general classification] ambitions, and if you go with GC ambitions, with a team like Sky it has got to be to win the race. Whether he [Froome] will be able to achieve that, a podium, top ten, or maybe not even that, we will be able to tell after a week or so.
“If Froome was in top condition, that would be great, but at the same time he has had a lot of time off and a crash like that can’t go underrated. We need to be ambitious, but at the same time realistic.”
Like Froome, Contador is also battling back from injury after breaking his leg in a crash that forced him to abandon the Tour on stage ten.
However, with Quintana, Spanish climber Joaquim Rodriguez and defending Vuelta champion Chris Horner all set to be on the start line of the opening stage on Saturday, Rowe is predicting a thrilling race.
“It’s going to be a great battle,” he added. “The Tour obviously missed Contador and Froome and the big battle that was made up to be, so hopefully the Vuelta will make up for that. I think Alberto Contador is in a similar boat in that we are not quite sure how he will be, because he crashed quite heavily at the Tour as well.
“But there are a lot of other guys. You have got Joaquim Rodriguez, who is pretty fired up for the win as well. It’s going to be a great race and hopefully Froomey can be there or thereabouts. “
There will be three Britons in Team Sky’s team, with Froome and Rowe being joined by newly crowned British national road race champion Peter Kennaugh.
The 25-year-old Manxman missed out on selection for the Tour de France and is keen to make amends with a strong showing in Spain.
He said: “I can’t wait. I have had a good couple of months, with good performances at the Tour of Austria and winning the national championships on the road – that was the highlight of my whole career.
“I can’t wait to get to Spain and show that [British] jersey off, hopefully do it proud, come out with a good performance and help Chris to the best of my abilities.”