The upcoming Vuelta a España will mark the third and final Grand Tour of 2020, in a year that the cycling calendar has been put off-kilter by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The result has been the three Grand Tour events being played out in very close succession. The Tour de France got underway on August 29th, and the Vuelta a España will conclude on November 8th, with nine weeks of top-class Grand Tour cycling action crammed in between.
As the Vuelta approaches, one of the key talking points is the return of Chris Froome for Ineos Grenadiers. The Englishman needs no introduction, having won the Tour de France on four separate occasions, as well as bronze medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. The 35-year-old then faced a setback in 2019 after a crash in training left him with a fractured femur, a fractured elbow, and fractured ribs.
It was a heavy fall, both literally and figuratively, for a rider so accustomed to success. The crash and subsequent injuries were a wake-up call for Froome, a harsh plunge into despair after the giddy heights that preceded it. Now, back fit and firing, there is a chance for Froome to complete a recovery which was further delayed by the effects of the pandemic, and some may be tempted to take a punt on Froome with their favourite bet exchange website.
The Vuelta will be Froome’s final outing for Ineos Grenadiers, previously Team Sky. It was announced that 2020 would be the Froome’s last year as an Ineos rider, after which he will join up with the Israel Start-Up Nation team from 2021. But that does not mean he won’t be giving absolutely everything at the Vuelta to help Ineos Grenadiers. After all, Ineos general manager Sir Dave Brailsford helped mastermind Froome’s four Tour de France triumphs, so the Kenya-born cyclist owes them one last big performance.
But despite the impressive list of achievements Froome has to his name, it’ll be tough going to deliver a performance at the Vuelta that lives up to such lofty prior success. He’ll be in good company, though, with Richard Carapaz expected to be Ineos Grenadiers’ other main rider in Spain. The Colombian brings plenty of experience and pedigree, having won the Giro D’Italia last year, and delivered a strong performance at the Tour de France despite team leader Egan Bernal struggling and ultimately withdrawing.
There was speculation that Bernal may take part in the Vuelta, but the Colombian will miss out as he seeks to recover his health and fitness after struggling so badly in his Tour de France defence. There will be a strong team of domestiques backing up Froome and Carapaz at the Vuelta, with Andrey Amador, Iván Sosa, Sebastián Henao, Cameron Wurf and Christian Knees all named in the provisional list of Ineos Grenadiers riders.
For Froome personally, the Vuelta brings a chance to show the world that he still has what it takes to compete in cycling’s major races. His performance will be a fascinating battle between his mind and his body – what he feels he can achieve and what he can realistically achieve. It may prove that Carapaz is Ineos’ best chance at victory in the Vuelta, but that will not stop Froome from giving it absolutely everything. He owes it to himself to do so.