BARCELONA August 21 (Reuters) - Chris Froome aims to put his Tour de France misery behind him with victory in the Vuelta a Espana but he faces stiff competition from a strong field led by Nairo Quintana.
The Vuelta has become an ideal opportunity for cyclists who under-performed in the Tour de France to bounce back and it is the case for Froome who failed in his bid to win cycling’s flagship event for a second successive year.
The Team Sky rider crashed out on the fifth stage of the Tour after falling three times in two days.
“This is exactly the sort of challenge I need after the disappointment of withdrawing from the Tour de France,” Froome said this week.
“You can’t dwell on disappointment, you have to move on quickly to the next thing and the Vuelta has become the perfect race for me to focus on.”
He leads a strong nine-man Sky squad for the final major tour of the year which starts near Cadiz in southern Spain on Saturday.
“Chris Froome will be our team leader and it’s great to have him back on the bike and focused on the challenge ahead,” said Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford.
“He was obviously very disappointed after having to withdraw from the Tour de France but Chris has recovered and trained well since the injury. He’s now more determined than ever to get back to what he does best – riding Grand Tours.”
Movistar’s Quintana will prove a formidable adversary after winning the Giro d’Italia and is fresh having not entered the Tour de France.
He will go into the race fresh from his victory in the Vuelta a Burgos where he looked full of energy in the uphill finish.
“I am in good form but there are other rivals who are also doing well at the moment,” the Colombian told reporters in Spain.
Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali may not be involved but the field is still packed with talent including Alberto Contador who has decided to take part even though his form is uncertain having just returned from a leg injury.
Though the Spaniard, who abandoned the Tour de France after falling, said he will be concentrating on stage wins, he will surely also have his eyes on victory.
“With Alberto we have the chance to compete on a high level in the high mountain stage finishes and on the medium mountain stages,” Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Philippe Mauduit said.
“Alberto crashed and broke his leg during the Tour and I’m not sure if it’s plausible to aim for the overall win after only a few weeks of hard training in the mountains but we’ll flash the jersey in the race and you will notice us.”
Chris Horner was the surprise winner last year but a repeat for the veteran is unlikely while for Joaquim Rodriguez a podium finish is a realistic target.
This year’s route has 40 summits and 13 mountain stages as well as an individual and team time trial.
Additional reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Sudipto Ganguly