Chris Froome said it would be “sentimental” to finish his Team Ineos career at the Vuelta a Espana after missing out on selection for the Tour de France.
Froome, a four-time Tour winner, was left out of the squad alongside fellow former champion Geraint Thomas when it was named last week, instead offered the carrot of leading the team – now rebranded as the Ineos Grenadiers – at the Vuelta before he leaves for Israel Start-Up Nation.
That will have been a major disappointment considering Froome has made the Tour – and the chance of a record-equalling fifth victory – his sole target ever since suffering career-threatening injuries at the Criterium du Dauphine in June 2019.
But in an official team video from their relaunch in Nice, Froome said he could look forward to October 20 and the start of the Vuelta – a race he won in both 2011 and 2017.
“It is a strange feeling but it is quite sentimental for me as well,” Froome said.
“The Vuelta a Espana was the race where I first really discovered myself as a Grand Tour contender nine years ago with the team, so to be doing that now, as my last race with Team Ineos, has a quite special feeling to it.
“It’s a race I’ve always enjoyed doing and it will be great to get stuck into a Grand Tour this year in that sense.”
Although they will not be on the Tour start line in Nice on Saturday, it was a short journey from their training base for both Froome and Thomas to attend the launch – hosted at the Allianz Riviera Stadium which is home to Ligue 1 side Nice, another part of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s sporting empire.
Thomas, the 2018 Tour winner, will instead focus on the Giro d’Italia, which begins on October 3 in Sicily. Thomas targeted the race in 2017 but early crashes brought his challenge to a premature end.
“Every Grand Tour is tough but the racing in Italy is different to the Tour,” he said. “It’s not as big globally but the passion for cycling in Italy is right up there with any country, the fans love it and the roads are great for racing.
“The actual race suits me with three time trials but there are still a lot of hard climbs. I’m really excited now. It’s five or so weeks away so I’m all guns blazing for that.”
The Vuelta a Espana was the race where I first really discovered myself as a Grand Tour contender nine years ago with the team, so to be doing that now, as my last race with Team Ineos, has a quite special feeling to it
With Froome and Thomas missing, the new-look Grenadiers will be all-in behind defending champion Egan Bernal, with 2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz leading the supporting cast.
With Froome 35 and Thomas 34, the focus on the 23-year-old Bernal and Carapaz, 27, represents a changing of the guard, even if Thomas is not going anywhere just yet.
Asked if the younger pair represented the future of the team, Froome said: “Yeah, they’ve both won Grand Tours themselves, Egan in the Tour and Carapaz in the Giro so they’re both great riders in their own right.
“The future is safe in that regard for sure. I’m sure G can carry on teaching them everything he’s learned over the years.”